SHS : Falling through the gaps
I was diagnosed with global developmental disorder when I was three years old, and by Year 4 I was aware I found everything harder than everyone else. I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when I was seven years old. Then when I was 11, I was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder.
My secondary school was supportive but couldn’t meet my learning and communication needs. Looking back, this makes me feel really sad. I wanted to learn, achieve and make friends, like everyone else. But I just wasn’t able to. I didn’t understand my needs, nor did anyone else.
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“My secondary school couldn’t meet my needs .”
My mum realised I was becoming more withdrawn and frustrated, so in Year 8 I went for a term at a local learning and additional needs specialist school. Being with other pupils like me was amazing. For the first time I didn’t feel different.
My mum called an emergency meeting with my secondary school and it was finally agreed I should be receiving specialist education.
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At a learning and additional needs school, I could finally flourish
Joining the specialist school on a permanent basis was a massive boost. I was able to follow the lessons and work hard. I could help others, instead of everyone having to help me. I felt a strong sense of belonging and made friends.
I was unrecognisable from the shy, lonely and frustrated student I’d been before.
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Getting the right education and support is crucial
More people are aware of autism now, so I hope students growing up are able to go to the right school for them. Being around other autistic people is so important for development, understanding and belonging.
Leaving specialist school was tough. I now have to battle for the things I need just to be myself. You have to be equipped with your own research and get used to a lack of support and opportunities.
At 22, I’ve achieved so much more than I thought possible. I’m self-aware, driven and confident. I’m convinced I wouldn’t be the person I am today without attending a specialist school.
About the author
Alice is an autistic 22 year old.