Trouble In School | Organization for Autism Research

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Growing up, school for me was, in a word, difficult. I knew this ever since about fifth grade when I first began receiving actual homework. Sure, it was an easy and kind of fun homework, a weekly packet with a word search at the end, but somehow something as simple as that couldn’t capture my attention for long enough to complete it. Even back then, I can clearly recall thinking that school was going to suck from that point forward mainly because of my inability to understand concepts in class enough to complete the homework. If said homework is supposed to reinforce what you learned in class, how could it do that if I felt like I learned nothing in class that day?

This is why many times when I got home from school, I could be found goofing off on my computer reading fanfiction, watching YouTube videos trying to find the most up-to-date information I could about the shows I liked and later, writing my own fanfiction stories. Not that any of you will ever discover my old screen name and thus the stories I wrote. Fun for me to look back every now and again, but not to share, sorry.

Anyway, back on topic. I think school for me was always a struggle because I never felt like I understood the material enough to connect with it and no one really helped me to do so. Even during this time, about a decade or so before I felt like I really understood myself, I could tell that I needed a tutor, but I could never get one. The kids in school hated me to the point of almost physically beating me up (a story for another time), so I knew they’d be no help, and the teachers just ignored me as I was just a shy wall flower wanting nothing more than to get through school without embarrassing myself or messing up too badly. Even now, thinking back years later, my high school career is not something I would not willingly go back to unless I could teach my then-self how to grow a spine and stand up for help not just to the bullies, but the teachers as well, so I could hopefully get the help I so desperately needed.

The issue, back then (and even through my entire college career), was that I was too busy working to pass my classes to really understand and analyze the type of help I needed. I mean, I know I said that I knew I needed a tutor, but I was never sure how to go about getting one. If they were offered at either my high school and/or college, it was not advertised. Well, there was a learning center and a group tutoring session at the community college I went to that helped a bit. The main issue with that was that I was so far behind and confused in what I was supposed to be learning that it only mildly helped. While I did manage to barely pass math that year, it was still quite the struggle with all my other classes.

I would love for schools to be able to highlight the assignment of tutors for those that need them. This could be highlighted either through a school wide notification/newsletter sent via the students’ email and/or snail mail, the public announcements at the beginning or end of each school day, or through the special education program depending on who needs the program most and how many willing tutors there are. While many students often had friends to help them with study sessions and such, I was one of the few that didn’t and thus was forced to struggle on her own. Being as my only focus was school, it would have been easy for me to work with the other student’s schedule and thus possibly pass my class easier.

Should this be instated, it could either happen during a free period for all, lunch or after school under the supervision of a teacher or other school official. In order to entice participants, the reward could range from actual money (a few bucks as was offered in my high school for note takers), to volunteer hours, to some percent of extra credit on a given assignment/test/semester of the student and teacher’s choice. This could even be done in an electronic form using a program such as Zoom where it’s the teacher or other school official supervising the program to ensure help is actually being given either during or after the regular school day. As you can tell, yes I’ve thought a lot about it, I’ve just never been sure how to present it to school officials in a way to possibly get the program started.

Another thing I would love to get started is limiting the amount of homework given to students such as myself who seem to be struggling. As long as we can demonstrate that we’re putting in the same amount of effort as our peers, we should be graded accordingly. While there was a program at my school where I believe this could be implemented, the end result was a certificate, aka not even equivalent to earning a GED. During my time in school (both high school and college) I knew it was wrong but I felt powerless on how to change it. There were so many nights I either almost or flat out cried over this injustice. No one should be punished just because they learn differently than their peers. If given the right tools, we special learners can succeed just as well as our typical peers.

In closing, please share this post if you agree with my ideas. If given the right support and guidance, I would really love to give others like myself the tools and opportunities I felt I never had.

Megan Rickards is a high functioning autistic with a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Writing. Since graduating, she has been blogging for Future of the Force and managing her own blog site From an Autistic Point of View. In her free time, she has been looking for a professional blogging job while attempting to learn as much about the pop culture universe as she can. What she lacks in professional experience, she more than makes up for in talent and determination to get the job done.  At the same time, she also enjoys working with as many autistic and pop culture communities as she can. Her dream is to one day be lucky enough to write for Star Wars Insider.

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