On what should have happened in ’92 (pt. III)

In the 2004-05 academic year I was suspended from school for the first time. Now, with some hindsight, I think that my then undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome was the root cause. I have always struggled with Maths ever since I started school. The common sociological cliché of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is that they will be some kind of Rain Man figure, who is obsessed with Maths, Science and technology. Whilst I have a strong interest in the latter two Maths leaves me stumped – I wouldn’t be surprised if I have dyscalculia, which is like dyslexia, but it is a difficulty to do with numeracy, rather than literacy.

So in one particular Maths lesson my fifteen year old self was finding it hard to keep up with the mathematical jargon the teacher was telling me and the rest of the bottom set class. My mind started to drift as I couldn’t follow the gobbledygook – and then, my teacher suddenly pointed to a problem on the board and asks me “why is this the wrong answer?”. Finding myself baffled I used humour as a nervous response so I replied, “because it isn’t the right answer”. She was furious at what I said, and she told me that I had to stay behind and talk to her about my “bad attitude”. So I spent the rest of the lesson silently fuming about being unduly vilified.

After the lesson, when I should have been having lunch, she proceeded to read me the riot act to the point that I could take no more. I stormed out of the room shouting that she should “f*ck off!”. This resulted in me being suspended and put in an isolation room with other suspended students for three whole days. I now realise that if I could have read her body language and facial cues I would have realised that my Maths teacher was asking me a rhetorical question to remind me to pay attention in class. If was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 1992, when I was three, my teachers would be aware that I sometimes get things wrong, meaning I come across as facetious or aloof when I don’t mean to.

If I had also known about my having Asperger’s Syndrome when I applied for teacher training I would have got the extra help I needed to pass the course. After being told that I needed to improve substantially during my second school placement I spent nine hours at school, followed by seven hours in my university’s library planning and preparing so that I could email my plans to my mentor in advance. I would leave home at 6:30 in the morning and return after midnight almost every day. If I had known that the difficulties in my teaching I was struggling to fix were due to a brain condition that I was born with, which couldn’t be cured I would have given up there and then.

Eventually the inevitable happened and I failed the course. It was the first time that I had failed anything in my academic career. I even had to sit through the final farewell assembly at the university with all of my peers whom had all passed and were congratulating each other. I was probably one of the most intelligent people on the course with some of the best subject knowledge, but it wasn’t good enough.

That was it. I had no plan B, my future had crumbled like dust and, worst of all I couldn’t work out why. But as my life seemed over, eight months later I would find a revelation – and a new beginning of sorts…



2 thoughts on “On what should have happened in ’92 (pt. III)

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I too have Aspergers however I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 43 years old. Unfortunately it took a major depressive episode and the consequential loss of my business to discover what had made me “different” for my whole life.

    Your experiences as a trainee teacher resonate with me so much. After diagnosis, and at the behest of my mother, I decided that teaching was a plausible career option for me. Having more degrees and diplomas than you can count on one hand, and with an insatiable desire to learn, this appeared reasonably logical. Like you, however, I was soon to discover that my disability left me completely unsuitable for the job and with a great deal less self-confidence than when I began. Although I made it through my one year postgraduate Diploma of Education (albeit with one shocking placement), I ended up quitting teaching just less than two years into my career. A short dissertation would be needed to even begin to outline the difficulties I experienced teaching. Hasten to add, I experienced every one of the difficulties you described.

    Almost two years after I stopped teaching I still “mourn” the loss of the career. You display a brilliant understanding of how your mind works and one that I unfortunately still do not possess. I’m so pleased that you were at last diagnosed and weren’t confronted by a further 20 years of confusion like I was. I look forward to reading more about your life’s journey and trust that it may assist me to slowly unravel the workings of my own mind!

    In the meantime, I might be interested in checking out my Doctor Who blog in which I chronicle my ultimate marathon – 50 Years in 50 Weeks. You can find it at http://doctorwhomindrobber.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks for such a positive comment. I’m so sorry to hear of the tough stuff you’ve been through. I think that getting informed is a great helper in making sense of the condition, also this blog has made me feel a lot better about the ordeal I went through in teacher training. I’d recommend reading Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, it is by far the most accessible book I’ve read on it, as it hasn’t got loads of baffling psychology-babble. Reading it felt like someone had written a book about my life without telling me.

      As for the teaching, I too lament over failing at that. Even though I don’t want to do the job any more it still bugs me sometimes. I think that is just the very human feeling of wanting something you can’t have, and I sometimes wonder if I could have done more to succeed. However, it’s best to accept that it wasn’t for me and look to the future.

      Looking forward to following your blog, I’m a mega Doctor Who fan! And I hope mine’s worth reading too.


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