I wish my teachers could see how anxious I am.
Dita's story, as told from her mother, Nicola.
Dita finds school incredibly challenging, however she does not have 'classic autism' and as a girl she is able to mask her difficulties rather well within the school setting. This proved extremely difficult in getting the support from school for her diagnosis.
The main areas in which Dita struggles with within the school setting are making and keeping friends, knowing how to act in social situations, and has high levels of anxiety when things happen outside of the routine. It's very difficult for her teachers to be able to notice her anxieties as she is not disruptive, she will go to great lengths to not appear 'different' to the rest of the class or draw attention to herself.
I would love for the teachers to be able to notice her anxieties, by her finger movements, chewing on items and the 'glazed' look that I see appear in her eyes when I can tell she is anxious, it would be beneficial for them to know that although their actions may not create instant reactions that they still have an affect on her. She can come home from school and cry/scream/hit everybody and even hit herself in the head due to the frustrations that have built up throughout her day.
I would love for the teachers/classroom/dinner time assistants to have an awareness of autism and more than just classic autism, and know that one little comment can upset my precious little girl for a long period of time, we had a situation recently when it was world book day, and Dita went dressed as a gymnast, as she adores gymnastics. She even has a collection of books about it. A comment was made by a dinner assistant, that her clothing looked tight on her. This upset my daughter greatly. Dita already says nobody loves her, she's ugly, asks if you want her to be dead, so to have somebody make a comment like this is really deflating. Sometimes I just want to keep her at home with me however I'm aware there's less opportunity for her to develop social skills if she doesn't attend a school.
Generally I wish there was an understanding that although my girl may be smiling at you, it doesn't mean she's happy or comfortable. She has communication problems, and teamed up with her intelligence she is aware that if she doesn't smile, or lets people know that she's upset then they are going to ask questions, and that is a situation she cannot handle and will do anything not to put herself in it which is why she is smiling at you!
The teachers having some knowledge and understanding would benefit us all, it would help my daughter if somebody could see she was getting anxious and maybe remove her from that situation for a short period of time so she is able to self regulate without her having to ask the questions herself, which is something she is unable to do. It would help for me to be able to know what is upsetting her at school, so if I can find a solution, or attempt to talk to her about it, but at the moment apart form some obvious blips such as timetables changing then I haven't a clue in which areas she particularly struggles with and what is making her build up so much frustration and anxiety that she breaks down when she comes home and has levels of anxiety that are having such a detrimental impact on her mental health.
Dita's teacher has noticeably made an effort to learn about girls with autism, and I can see as the year progresses that she is picking up more and more, however there's still a level of 'we will only tell the teacher and TA in the class about it' when I think 'No!' tell everybody in the school, everybody needs to know, we are not ashamed, she is beautiful, intelligent and if it lowers the chance of her being upset anymore then her daily life already causes her then tell everybody. Everybody has the potential to make a comment that may hurt my little girl, intentional or not, so I'd rather every teacher, TA, dinner lady etc. know exactly how to support children with autism rather then try to hide it away.