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Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Totally Cynical About School

Warnings: School fails, fairly major.

I'm pretty cynical about things going wrong at school. Not “you don't belong in the classroom” kinds of wrong, like many of my disabled [metaphorical] siblings, but a “these classes you have to take both of are at the same time” kind of wrong or a “this... doesn't exist” kind of wrong. That's because those are the kinds of wrong I've had happen to me, and often. In seventh grade, I couldn't get an appropriate math class [I'm going to be kind of stereotypical here] because I really belonged in probably geometry or algebra 2, but they wouldn't let me out of prealgebra since they wanted me to learn organization. [I didn't learn organization by sitting in prealgebra and not paying attention, FYI.] Also, neither of those classes existed at the middle school.
In eighth grade, they had this test that could be administered at the start and end of the year to figure out progress in algebra 1. Well, I apparently got a score on the pre-test administration of it that would be considered really good for the post-test administration. So when my mother called the school to try yet again to get me a reasonable math class for me, the teacher had been considering calling my mother for the same reason. I didn't take algebra 1. I sat in the back and self-studied, and I wound up taking the midyear and final exams for 9th grade geometry with two other girls, one of whom was in the back self-studying next to me. The other was in a different section, and I think she took algebra 1 for the review. It was great, that first taste of getting an unusual need accommodated. [Remember, folks, the kid you think of as the gifted kid has unusual needs that require accommodation, and may be disabled in addition to academically gifted. The two can go together, and yes, that does sometimes mean disability accommodations for grade-skipped kids or within individual extra assignments.]
I also tested out of Algebra 2, though the other girls didn't. So in ninth grade, I took precalculus. High school lunches were by grade: freshmen ate together, sophomores ate together, juniors ate together, and seniors ate together. There were a few exceptions, like lab classes, gym, and some mixed classes, but people generally ate with their own grade. I didn't. There was a six-day cycle, and I got to eat with my own grade two of those six days. Unless something went wrong, which sometimes happened. I had more full weeks of never getting to eat with my own year than I did times that I got to eat with them even two days in a row- I do have some idea what lunch separation can be like, because of that. The kids who were in special education classes tended to eat all at one table, and I often wound up at their table.
Then I managed to get kicked out of a class I wasn't even really in. It's complicated. Chinese 2 and Chinese 3 were in the same classroom at the same time, and I was supposed to be in Chinese 2. I did the work for both, had been doing so all year, but in April the head of the foreign language department decided I couldn't anymore. This was suspiciously close in timing to my pulling out of the exchange program to Xi'an on the basis of inability to accommodate a shellfish allergy, and also I melted down in front of the teacher when she told me. #awkward. The fact that I wasn't diagnosed, didn't have an IEP, probably saved my hide that day. [That was another of those times where I was pretty blatant about the fact that I was going to do whatI wanted. My guidance counselor said “You might not be back in Chinese 3 tomorrow.” I said “That's fine, we don't meet tomorrow. But the day after tomorrow is a test for Chinese 3, and I'd prefer to take it with permission.” I think she got the implication that I was going to find a way to take it either way.] The principal showed up in my last period class the next day with a blank copy of the classwork and homework from the day I missed. The total effect of being kicked out of a class I wasn't even in was to wind up with both Chinese classes on my transcript and one day of Chinese 2 work never getting done.
Tenth grade went pretty smoothly.
Eleventh grade less so. I was signed up for American Studies, having gotten it in the lottery, and everything looked OK until AP Statistics fell out of my schedule. Still not 100% sure what went wrong, but at the end of it I had AP Physics instead of AP Statistics, American Studies got lost to separated History and English, and I was in a sophomore section of Chemistry instead if a junior one. Physics was fine, but the rest was a mess. I also had two schedule changes in the first week of school, one to try to fix some of the problems and the next when it turned out that the fix gave one teacher 101 students, which the rules said he couldn't do. The rest of the scheduling chaos had been handled the previous spring, including the AP Physics teacher being fairly sure I didn't belong in his class because people aren't supposed to take AP Physics C without Honors Physics 2 first or something like that.
Senior year was possibly the most frustrating schedule to make happen, though once it was in place it was the best one I ever had. AP Statistics fell out again, which is how I wound up taking classes independently online, but the online classes were better for me anyways. My guidance counselor tried to drop me from the wrong electives based on thinking that the ones she wanted me in were more appropriate for me, which led to several visits before school started, culminating in the suggestion that she make my schedule match where I would be... I'm still not sure why she liked me, after all the trouble I put her through, but she did. Which probably also helped in terms of getting away with that kind of thing.
Oh, and the paperwork to make my online classes count for my third year of math so I could graduate? Didn't get turned in until about two weeks before graduation, though I got enough done to qualify as an acceptable year of math in the first semester.
Perhaps you can tell why I'm a wee bit mistrustful of schools to not mess up my schedules and graduation? That's why I came into college already knowing how to line up my classes for all five years such that I'd manage even if I brought no credits back from abroad.


  1. Wow that's really...not great. I'm really impressed at how effectively you dealt with it (I'm really bad at dealing with authority figures and class conflicts are actually why I ended up dropping my math major since I couldn't talk to people about fixing it).

    1. It was modeled for me from a pretty young age- my parents were in principals offices trying to get me decent math classes starting really early, so my first time getting into (and winning!) a major argument with an authority figure was when I was 8. I've had a LONG time to build these scripts.


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