Escape from the ants

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
A 10-year-old Asperger's boy tells how timely intervention turned his schooling hell around

Two years ago, school was like a pit of goblins hitting me in the back with pick-axes. Nag, nag, nag.

I would sit at my desk like a fly on a lump of dung, until the teacher told me off and said: "Do your work." But when she was explaining, it sounded like a mouse squeaking on and on. It was senseless. So I did not know what to do and I would just sit there. All around me there were too many annoyances, and too much noise.

Then the teacher would notice that I had not written anything, and tell me to get on with my work, or I would miss my playtime. But I still did not know what to do, and I did not know how to ask.

Then later, she would notice that I still had not written anything, and she would get angrier and angrier - her face would go all pale and wrinkly.

Then I would burst out laughing because she looked so funny.

Then I would be sent to the headteacher's office, and there would be a huge row. Her face would go all red and wrinkly as she shouted: "How dare you, how dare you..."

Then I would burst out laughing again, because her face looked so funny - it went from white to red to purple.

In the end, she would get tired of telling me off and send me back to my class to apologise to my teacher. But I still did not understand what I was meant to be doing. I was always bottom of the class, and I thought I was thick.

I was really unhappy and miserable, and worried about the future. I thought I would be a failure in my life, without a job. I would tell my mum and dad all the time, and they would come to school, but it made no difference.

I was always in trouble. I used to lie on the floor when I was tired and stressed, and take my shoes off when my feet were hot. I would shout out funny things to make people laugh and like me. I even felt-tipped my face like a clown.

Once I had to miss playtimes for two whole days, doing worksheets. I could not understand the sheets but I liked staying in - it meant I did not have to go in the playground.

The playground was boring. I just walked around the perimeter of the yard and waited until the whistle blew. I could never understand what the other kids were talking about, or how to join in. I found my first bully there.

He went behind me to pretend to hide, then pulled my trousers down, in front of everyone. School was horrible, outside and inside.

I remember once, I had had an awful day. I was really tired and stressed. I was standing outside the classroom door again. It was peaceful out there, but they asked me to come back in.

I refused, so two teachers started trying to pull me in. I clung on to the doorframe like a leech. Both of them were tugging me, like I was the Enormous Turnip. But I would not let go, and in the end they just left me there.

Then one of them spoke nicely to me, and took me back into the lesson. Then the other one came and sat right next to me and worked with me.

Surprisingly, I managed to complete the work, because I had a lot of help from the teacher. After that, it was like a whole ant's nest having a very important conversation - my teachers, my parents, the experts, lots of appointments, lots of meetings - all about me. And everything started to change.

Now I have got my own assistant. She's really nice and really good at teaching. She helps me understand things and tells me what is happening.

My teacher, and every other teacher in the school, speaks to me in an understanding way, and I can understand what they are saying (although I still cannot understand the dinner ladies). I have got my own separate desk, so nobody can annoy me, and my own desk organiser. Now I can stay on task, and I'm very well-behaved. And I've got a home-school book for messages and homework.

Playtimes are better. If I am bored, or being bullied, or it is too noisy, I'm allowed to stay in, reading a book outside the head's office.

All in all, the turnover has been a great success. My life is in tip-top condition. I'm coming near the top of the class in some things, and I know I'm not thick. Now I think I will do well and have a happy life.

But I'm going up to the big school next year, and I'm really worried about that.

Jack, aged 10, has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. This article was written by his mother but is in his own words. He went back to mainstream primary school this term with extra help

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