I already wrote a blog about how autism affected my life as a child in elementary school, in regards to social, sensory, and coordination issues, as well as by showcasing how autism gave me a different view point and different interests from other students. This blog will discuss how things turned out in high school.
For me, middle school and high school were where the challenges began. In addition to classmates from my elementary school, I was also mixed in with students from two other schools. It took me awhile to learn who all the kids were. This was an ongoing process but by around ninth grade, I knew who most of the students were in my class. How did I learn who they were? From day one in seventh grade, many teachers would read the class roster every day to find out which students were absent. The repetition of student names helped me know who was in my class. Slowly but surely, I began to figure out who my classmates were by associating a person with their name via them being called on or getting yelled at. Sometimes I figured it out by working with them whether it was for correcting papers or by working on school projects together.
To clear up the confusion I started high school twice. When I started seventh grade year in 1993, it was considered high school, which was from grades seven through twelve. After the middle school was finished being created (the old Biglerville Elementary school was renovated for this purpose) in 1995, I became a middle schooler for part of a year, just to return to high school the following year when high school became grades nine through twelve. This means that I was the youngest student in the building twice as well as the oldest student in the building twice.
Seventh grade itself was actually an exciting year. It did take time to learn where my classes were located, but for several weeks a senior took me to all of my classes. For most students they got a week where a volunteer eight grade student would fill the same role, but due to my need of extra time to learn, a senior helped me. It’s funny, when it came to taking me to my class after lunch, an elementary school friend who also happened to be in my sixth period class, wanted to take me to that class. I had to turn him down while the senior was helping me, but after I was able to go between classes myself, my friend and I would walk from lunch to class together. Lockers were easy to learn. Mine was number seventy-nine which made it easy to memorize since it was my favorite number at the time.
Riding the school bus with an attractive girl, who would become my crush, was one of the most exciting things to occur to me. She was a blonde and an eighth grader. She wore matching-colors clothing, primarily black, pale green and pale blue. I didn’t know this at the time, but later I realized that the reason she would always wear clothing that exactly matched was that she was wearing dresses!
In seventh grade math class we finally got to some interesting subjects that were skipped over in elementary school math. I thought the word “integer” was funny looking and it appeared at the back of the sixth grade math text book, but we never got there. During seventh grade we did learn what this meant. We also worked with negative numbers, which allowed us to perform such math problems such as the fabled “6-7” from back in grade school, which wasn’t possible as the bigger number was on the bottom. When it came to measurements, the elusive, never taught metric measurements such as centiliters (cL) found on the back of the school issued manila Modern notebooks were actually covered in class!
Life Science has a few interesting stories. First of all, one of my friends was in the class, and since we were able to pick lab groups, I picked him to be in my group. Students were allowed to bring stuffed animals to school, so I brought a plush cat. After being nudged by the teacher, a few students brought unique stuffed animals to the party, such as a bird, a fish, and some reptiles. When it came to dissection labs, though my second lab partner and I didn’t want to touch the worm or frog, my friend gladly did the work with the animal, and let us observe and record the observations. In the case of the worm, he dried it in a textbook and used it as a bookmark. Everyone at my lunch table thought it was funny, and he became a school legend. There was also a project involving yeast and balloons, which I had mentioned in an earlier blog that I had written.
Lunch was always a fun time as we played chess, and were able to get to sixth period class early enough so that a friend and I could play Hang Man on the white board until it was time for class to start. The best word that I used was “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Gym during both seventh and eighth grade year was adaptive P.E. Sometimes I would be in with the regular class, with extra help, and other times did separate activities with the idea of promoting improvement in various skills. Examples would be practicing making baskets when the normal class was outside, playing shuffleboard, and learning how to properly use the weight lifting machines.
Difficult events for me included the occasional shifting of student schedules, as well as going to assemblies and pep rallies. Assemblies started out uncomfortable in the sense of finding where I was supposed to sit, but once I got settled in, they were fine. Pep Rallies were a sensory and coordination nightmare. They were too loud, unpredictable, and it was hard to climb the bleachers to get to the area set up for my class.
When eighth grade came around, it was time for the middle school as well as bullies. Bullies were not equal opportunity anymore, and liked to pick on me solely because I was different. Some even tried to confuse me by telling me they were someone else so that I would have trouble reporting them, or worse, report the wrong person. Fortunately, this never happened!
Students began to show the effects of hormones. During my teenage years, like most boys, I had an interest in dating and getting a girlfriend. It didn’t work out that way. Girls liked the popular guys, who were into sports, had muscles, and who were suave. At home I still enjoyed playing with my brother though most people were hanging out with friends of the same age. I did try pretending to be normal at school, but people could see through it. I would inadvertently do things that would make me stand out. Examples would be liking the hallways decorated for homecoming. Students who cared about the hallways liked how the hallways were decorated to support their class. Other people simply liked the time of year because they cared about the football games. I liked all of the hallways that were decorated with balloons.
Another example would be the time a student teacher was finished with her stint in teaching my class. Leaving to finish her time in college, students in my class were writing comments on the white board wishing her goodbye, etc. I took the opportunity to write on the board about a girl that I liked that moved away years earlier. This was a mistake and not what one should do. Oops!
Of course, prom was another issue. Although I went, I wasn’t able to enjoy myself since it was too loud. The loudness of the music, the flashing lights, and the darkness of the large room made me feel lost. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the table I was sitting at. I went with a girl and a friend of hers, but when they went to the dance floor to “jump” (what the dancing people were primarily doing), I stayed at the table because of my discomfort. When they were out of sight, I wasn’t comfortable trying to find them in the loud dark crowded room, even if I wanted too. The atmosphere prevented me from being able to get up and even try to find them.
I also had trouble with major projects in both high school and college. They were intimidating and I didn’t know where to start. It was like grade school, where I had help getting started and breaking them into parts. I was also expected to know how to use the library which I really didn’t learn in school. It usually took me longer to get started on them for that reason. The problem was that by that point in my education, I was expected to know how to do projects by myself and how to pace myself. Apparently, I didn’t learn this earlier in my school career.
As you can see, high school was a mixed bag for me. It was an exciting time, as I became interested in girls and music, and I also had the chance to make new friends and explore the world around me; however, it was also a difficult time, as I had to deal with bullies, as well as adjusting to many new things.
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