Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on October 22, 2021. The video’s public release will be November 24, 2021.
Hey humans Lyric here, and this week, I am going to be talking about one of my least favorite subjects ever – school.
School is the one thing that, though I don’t dream very often, if I have some sort of reoccurring nightmare, it is likely to be about school; and unfortunately, a lot of Autistic and NeuroDivergent people share these similar sentiments about education.
If you would like to know a little bit more about my personal experience with school, and why education, the way it was for me, was a very traumatic experience – please do stay tuned.
The way I learn was a problem for teachers. I am not someone who sits completely still, ever. My hands are miming under the table right now, as, as we speak here, I’ve got them out of the way, so as they hopefully are not distracting, and because it feels a bit comfortable – the angle. I am trying not to mask as much as I used to, but it is something that happens, quite naturally, without even realizing I’m doing it because masking has so programmed into me, I am really realizing the more I try to unmask.
That that’s something that started in school, because when I was younger, my hands and my feet would have been more active, but I had teachers who scolded me for flapping my hands, who tied my feet to my chair, when I was moving my feet under my desk, because it was making a noise when I was tapping my foot. I learned from an early age when I entered school, that the way my body moves is inappropriate.
Before I came to school, none of this was an issue. I could lay on the floor and read and study by myself in a room, singing and talking to myself, verbally stimming, and drawing circles on the floor with my feet in the carpet, and it would have been a non-issue.
But, when I entered school, I was made aware that I am an annoyance and inconvenience for the people around me. Which was an instantly traumatizing experience.
I am Autistic, I have ADHD, and I am also hyperlexic, and I have social anxiety.
All of these things are a cocktail, that impact my life, and interact with one another. Part of my cocktail in school, that was causing me a lot of trouble, is being hyperlexic, having an far advanced reading level, and an advanced vocabulary reading at a college level in first or second grade.
Because my reading level was so advanced, adults and teachers around me expected me to be way more mature than I actually was, and expected me to do great in every class and every subject.
However, I am someone who struggles to pay attention to things that do not catch my attention. If a topic does not interest me, despite the fact that I can read far above grade level, if I read about it, I read and nothing sinks in.
It’s as if my memory does not absorb information that my brain has decided is uninteresting or irrelevant. I am either an expert at something, or I am complete and utter garbage at it. I’m an all or nothing person. There is no in-between with me.
I was very good at the subjects I was good at: English, reading, art, certain types of mathematics, but not all math, but I was also very, very bad at the subjects that I wasn’t good at. History, the way history is taught here in Texas, it was horrible. I couldn’t, I couldn’t make myself care, but you’re expected to be able to force your brain to focus on things and I wasn’t able to.
Because I was hyperlexic, it was assumed that I was not applying myself, and that I was being lazy, and I could do these things, if I would just apply myself. On top of everything else, I am someone who has audio processing difficulties.
Being in a room full of noisy busy children, trying to listen to a teacher speak at the front of the room, is very difficult if you are unable to hear words, word for word.
When I get overwhelmed, it can sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown is talking to me. “Wa wa wa wa wa wa.”
I know you’re talking because your lips are moving, but I don’t understand a word you say, oh.
I made up that song. Not really. It’s another song, but I changed the words.
I often would do really well, set to study and read something on my own, assuming it was something that could catch my interest, but listening to a teacher, speak at the front of the room wasn’t ideal for me. Sometimes it would literally put me to sleep, to try and be expected to listen to a teacher, talk at the front of the room. I would just get so exhausted, because of my audio processing difficulties.
I discovered that I could draw, or doodle, or read ahead, or do other things, to keep myself engaged, but often drawing, or doodling, or reading ahead, was taken by the teacher in authority, as a sign of being disrespectful, or not paying attention.
My NeurodDivergent attention does not look like NeuroTypical attention. I don’t need to look at you to think or focus. In fact, not looking at you, makes it a lot easier for me to think and process. A lot of teachers, when I was growing up, would expect me to look at them, so that they knew I was listening.
To be looking at them was me pretending to listen, while not actually listening – counterproductive to my learning.
In addition, I was stripped of a lot of autonomy when I entered school. We’re trying to teach Autistic and NeuroDivergent kids to have autonomy, to be able to speak up for their needs, and get their own needs met, but this was not the message I received.
At home if I needed to go to the bathroom, I just went to the bathroom. I didn’t need to ask permission, or excuse myself, to get my basic human needs met, but in school, bathroom breaks were scheduled and limited. You’re only allowed to have so many bathroom breaks in a week, or a semester, or a given time period, depending on how old you are.
For a child who has stomach issues, being punished and scolded for needing to go to the bathroom, and needing extra bathroom breaks, was an extremely traumatic experience.
I still try to break the habit of not going to the bathroom until the very last minute, and feeling like having the need to go to the bathroom is a problem, because school taught me that I shouldn’t have to go to the bathroom very much, and I should repress the need to pee.
Why, why did we do this to kids? People got to pee. Kids got to pee too.
I was holding my pee at school for unhealthy amounts of time, because I was afraid of being scolded by the teacher for asking to go to the bathroom.
Some of my worst bullies in school, we’re actually the teachers, and I’m not just talking about tying my legs to the chair and not letting me pee.
I’m talking about, when I went to to the teacher for help, because the other kids were picking on me, and bullying me, and calling me names. The teacher told me that, maybe if I stopped acting so weird, and would act normal, the other kids wouldn’t bully and pick on me so much.
I left school believing I was a broken person. I left school thinking I was incapable of learning. I left school with very low self-esteem, and I have been recovering from school ever since.
I now know that I can learn lots of things, if I’m passionate about them, and I study them, in my own way, on my own pace.
I am not the failure. The public education system in Texas failed me.
Education systems, all over the world, fail many Autistic and NeuroDivergent students like me, even still to this very day.
Thanks for hanging out with me this week. I know this video got serious really quick, but NeuroDivergent Education is a very serious topic.
I hope educators will see this, and learn something, so we can start making some changes to fix these issues.
I guess that’s my plea for you, my helpful viewers, to share this video, share it far and wide, share it with educators, and people who work in education systems, to help them be aware of something that they might not understood.
A huge, thank you to everyone for sharing, commenting, liking, subscribing, giving your video suggestions and inspiration for these videos, and my Patreon subscribers, and YouTube subscribers, and those of you who do the little, a little bit of monetary subscription, to help me with things like the website hosting, and the closed captioning, and the transcripts – which are on my website at NeuroDivergent Rebel dot com.
I could not produce the quality content I do without your help. So, I am really grateful. This, this blog is literally made possible by the support of viewers like you. So as always, I am grateful for my viewers.
I will see you all next Wednesday bye humans and creatures.
Help me get the word out!!! – If you like what I do, and would like more, please consider subscribing on Patreon. This blog is made possible by support from readers like YOU! (Sharing my content is also, equally helpful!)
With gratitude, Lyric
6 thoughts on “Autism & NeuroDivergent Trauma in Public Education – My Autistic Experience”
I’m happy to follow you. My son had similar superpowers and challenges. I’m really grateful and love reading your posts.
About the bathroom thing, that’s why I chose to be my own boss because controlling people’s bodies like that is sick in the head.
I’m 55 and still coming to terms with the trauma from school. Your blog is so relatable and I recognise myself on so much of it. I’m now an education researcher specialising in neurodiversity and inclusion.
This rings true. Have drawn the article to the attention of a friend who teaches preservice teachers.
My name is Dr. Michael Postma. I am currently co-authoring a book on the intersection of intelligence and trauma with a focus on school-induced trauma. A colleague shared this post with me. Might you be interested in being interviewed? No problem if the answer is no.
Thank you Lyric! Keep this up! 👍🏼🙌🏼