I don’t type much about my past, and while there are several reasons for that silence, the biggest one is that it is hard for me to look back upon and process. Before I started blogging, I really didn’t have a way to make sense of my world, and so things were really very scary. Relationships, events, conversations, they were all frightening because I didn’t understand them. It was not a fun way to live.
But perhaps I’m ready to do some looking back, at least here and now and about this one event. So, first, some back story.
I was a straight-A student at a small, private, Christian college. I was an education major. Originally, going into college, I’d wanted to be a doctor (because I’d heard so often how smart I was, and I thought that smart people should be doctors), but then my parents suggested that I become a teacher, so I went that route. Think of the lifestyle, they said, and think of the health benefits, and so on and so forth. Not knowing who I was or what I wanted in this life, I blindly followed that path.
I did really well in those education classes, and when we did field experiences, I did really well in those, too. I wrote my lesson plans out word for word, and I essentially read from the book in my mind’s eye and taught that way. I can’t say, looking back, that I ever really got to a point where I could interact with the kids properly, but I never knew I was different from anyone else, back then, so I wasn’t worried about that.
So, enter student teaching, or in other words, my downfall. The lights killed me. The social interaction was way too much. I wasn’t allowed to tell my supervising teacher that I was autistic, as per my on-campus supervisor. There were many comments about how I couldn’t go off my script and couldn’t interact with the children. They were fourth graders, nine and ten, and they were doing things socially (cliques, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc) that I still couldn’t handle.
I lasted less than three weeks before I was stressed out to the point of being very sick and unable to function. I had to quit. And I did.
It was thusly that I found myself in the on-campus Early Education Center (EEC)… I was there two half days and two longer days, so it was less hours than student teaching, and I wasn’t in charge of writing plans. When I left the classroom, I was done for the day. The only issue was that I had to take a letter grade of D for my final 14 credit hours of student teaching. It was a huge blow, but I would still graduate and do so magna cum laude at that.
And so it was there, in the EEC, where I found myself one day after the children had left with the two teachers whose names I can’t remember for the life of me. We’ll say Mrs. Abbott and Mrs Brown. Mrs. Abbot was the EEC director, who taught three days a week, and Mrs. Brown was the associate teacher, who taught the younger kids two days a week.
Now, let me pause to explain something to you. I rely extremely heavily on copying other people in order to get by. I don’t know what’s funny. I don’t know what’s appropriate. So, I lean on what you laugh at and what you say to know what I can laugh at and what I can say.
That particular rainy day, one of the little boys who had behavioral issues that no one seemed to address was out in the yard behind the building… peeing. I heard Mrs. Abbott laughing and talking about it with another parent. So, when Mrs. Brown wondered aloud what was so funny, I said, “Oh, such and such is going to the bathroom right outside!” with a giggle. Because, after all, Mrs. A was talking about it, and she was laughing, right? Therefore, it would be appropriate for me to giggle and relay the information.
The room stopped dead. “That’s not appropriate to talk about another student, and in front of a parent, Lydia! It’s not up to us what parents do with their children!”
Now, maybe I missed something, or maybe I even misheard something that led me to believe that I could talk about the situation. Gosh, maybe I even remember it wrong. But please, don’t focus on the story specifically but rather the message. When you’re a person who relies so heavily on cues from others, it is upsetting, confusing, and frustrating when the rules apply differently to you than to others, and you never know why.
Try to keep in mind with your autistic kiddos when they do something that appears inappropriate that they may just be copying something you did earlier!