I Wish My Teachers Had Patience.
I grew up knowing I was always different. Looking back on my younger life I can pick out specific behaviors I’ve carried to this day.
Isolated and separated from everyone else, I lived in my own world. I was someone else in my own fantasy world. I never interacted with others as I was bullied and pushed out of groups. So I was very isolated as a kid. The school was particularly tough. In my days in infant and junior school, I had one or two friends that’s all. Never involved in a group or gang of kids.
"Clumsy" and "slow" was another name for me. I was clumsy yes, could never catch a ball, horrible at sports in comparison to other children so I was less favored and pushed aside. My dad tried to teach me to ride a bike, but I kept falling off. He didn’t know why. My dad explained to my doctor the problems I had but the doctor’s response was “some kids are just clumsy”.
I had such a bad attention span in school that I got into trouble due to poor recollection and lack of understanding. “Why don’t you understand?” “Didn’t I already tell you…?”. Teachers are not very nice when it comes to children who are different. It’s a bit obvious they favored the more able children than those who required more support. Maybe teachers never knew how to support different children.
Supplemental support was never great. It just came and went and my struggles continued.
I understand that subjects must be taught at school. But the fact that there were so many and I had to move from one class to another didn’t do me any favors. The fact that I had no dedicated seating place, the fact that I did not have an education plan that was customized to me personally was difficult. Everything was accustomed for other pupils so we were put in the same boat if you will. This was the element of change. Change is something that I struggle with. It could be in routines, seating places, surroundings etc. The fact that everything changes in school day in day out took a toll.
I struggled through infants, juniors and secondary school. Don’t even get me started with the secondary school as they were the worst years of my life, literally. Me and my brother being the only two ethnics students in the school and as someone who was different I felt so alone and I was teased and bullied on a daily basis. I lost count a number of times someone called me a paki in school. I just had to accept that insult and carry on with schooling. Teachers never did anything to stop the name calling. Makes me think if the teachers were also bigots.
In terms of disability, as far as everyone else was concerned I had no disability. I was just slow, incoherent and clumsy.
Once I had the diagnosis of Asperger’s it was a relief to know that I’m not incoherent, just different. Everything fell into place and I now know why I am the way I am. I’ve gone back into education part time and I’m doing much better because I have discovered good teaching methods that support my cognition.
Looking back on schooling the number one thing I wish all of my teachers have is patience. That’s My number one on the list. To be a good teacher you must have patience. You can’t get aggressive with those children who don’t get things. Sometimes teachers must stop, take a breath and alter their approach. That’s it. But I know that’s a lot to ask for.
Number two on my list is for the teacher to seek alternative teaching methods. For example, breaking the subject up into smaller chunks and engaging with some type of practical activity. Visual aids or video teaching would have greatly helped me personally. People on the autism spectrum are glued to the TV so in my own personal view teaching subjects should also be in a form of video format. It allows us to rewind if we miss something, you can’t do that in real life?
The Khan Academy is a milestone nowadays and I just wish this was available in my younger years.
Thirdly, teachers must show students how to learn. I didn’t know how to learn so I struggled. I only discovered mind mapping and visual learning in my 30s and it did wonders for me. So to any teacher who is teaching someone with a disability or someone who’s different I’d say teach your students how to learn.
Fourth, have sympathy for those who struggle. There is an underlying reason why we cannot register and interpret things.
Fifth, encourage us and say we can do things. Just done yell it out aggressively. By tearing someone down your only degrading them and they will end up feeling helpless. Encourage with a can do attitude. Encouragement and support always help us. We’ll make the extra effort and it’ll put a smile on our faces.
Sixth, allow us to take time out. Breaks can help absorb information and also helps us to combat mental health issues.
Seventh, nowadays encourage the use of assistive technology like text to speech to improve our written communication. I find reading text is difficult so having a computer say it back to me really helps.
Lastly, appointed mentor. A teacher is not the real mentor. It’ll have to be someone else who will act as a voice and supporter. Someone who’ll be the person in the middle. Someone who is inclined to listen and go the extra mile to help, seek and resource information for the student.
A mentor who’ll never yell or scream at the student but just be there for full support.
So to offer good experiences in teaching someone with a disability in particular Asperger’s my top tips would be:
Alternative teaching methods
Teach how to learn
Allow for time out
Encourage use of assistive software
Allow for a mentor
To finish off I’m not sure if this is a tip but network with other professionals. I don’t want to restrict the networking with other teachers but branch out and network with business professionals who have employees on the autism spectrum. Network with adults on the autism spectrum and listen to experiences and listen to what helps them. Also, don’t forget there are great charities out there who can offer support. Go to meetings arranged by charities who’ll have professional speakers and those on the spectrum. Some of the information and advice would be highly beneficial.