Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Past is a Foreign Country, they do things differently there ...

I am sometimes asked if I think my life would have been different had I been diagnosed earlier.

Well allowing a certain theatrical suspension of disbelief and assuming that my present diagnosis had been available before I went to secondary school the answer is yes, life would have been different. Better? I don't know.

To begin with, I don't think up till my teens I would have had any problem with acknowledging the diagnosis but I do think a certain inevitable learned helplessness would have come with it. I think I would have felt constrained within it, less than I feel myself to be now growing up with disabled imagery in my mind.

That would have to be seen as a trade off against what accommodations might have helped me.

On the whole I don't have any real complaints about my Junior school, I think most of my teachers (with some exceptions) understood me well enough as against my brother who at one stage was considered "retarded".

Secondary school though was the problem. At the same time given that home schooling would not have been a realistic possibility, I don't think a special school would have been any good for me either.

Certain things would have been inevitable, even with a strong anti bullying policy in force bullying would have been inevitable because of the whole culture of those times and my ill fit to it. Without changing the whole basis of society I would have still suffered wherever I went.

I might have got a bit more understanding in lessons though, even so eventually teachers including the headmaster got to see I was a very determined individual who would go his own way no matter what.

What would have helped perhaps is to have been given more time to complete my "O" levels, and to have had the opportunity to sample and change courses from those that I had been railroaded into. If I had taken fewer "O" levels at 16 and taken more time, and then taken the rest at 18 say, along with a bit of specialist tuition for dyslexia, and the sort of concessions I get in exams now, I might have got better grades. As it is, I did not do so bad, for even my lowest exam grades are actually held equivalent to grades A to C in the GCSE exams that have succeeded the system I took.

I think I should not have rushed to University at all costs, that was a mistake, although I gained much from it and enjoyed those years, I was neither socially ready, nor academically suited to the course I took, and under normal circumstances with my results, and if I had been interviewed properly would never have got in.

Having been through the University applications process again recently I can see that.

Well stepping back, in an ideal world, the whole exam structure suited me not, but unbelievably those "O" levels still matter today so it is as well I have them.

I think I would have done better if I had taken my "A" levels at a further education college, like the ones I have been studying at more recently. Even so in the full knowledge of my AS I still don't find it easy at that level because the curricula and the examination system suit me no better now than they ever did. However with less pressure than at school, none of the petty restrictions I rebelled against, and a somewhat more adult ethos, I might have done better, particularly had I taken an access course as a route to Uni (as I subsequently did a few years ago)

Whether I would have been ready for Uni then I don't know, I am about to tackle a degree course by distance learning in September and hope I am ready for it now. However in spite of the fact that I don't think the learning method is the best for me, at least the course so far as what I can see of it is. Like my HND in media, there are no exams.

Ok education apart what about the world of work, supposing I had graduated a few years later than I might have done straight out of school.

My biggest problem when I failed at Uni to begin with was knowing what to do with my life, perhaps if I had known about AS then I might have been able to plan that a little better, and if I had have got a good degree then I might have had better choices, but lets face it, even with a diagnosis, the world of work is hostile, even with anti discrimination laws there are ways round them. I know full well with my diagnosis that the government employment service has been of no use to me, and has actually been harmful to me, and that in the future it will be no different.

No in the end I would still have been forced back on my own resources to sink or swim.

At some point this notional life with the advantage and concessions of diagnosis would have met this life where I am now, the paths would have converged and that yellow wood would become that impenetrable thicket I sometimes see ahead of me.

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...

Thanks Larry for sharing your school and university experience.

It makes me want to gag at the silver spoon in my own mouth.

But I shouldn't really, because I was helped so much.

Larry - Love your response on Autism Awareness in Europe. Your divergent praise is all I ever wanted in writing it, and I hope it provokes even more discussion than it has already.

Reading this post of yours and knowing the guy behind it moves me so very very much.