It’s show blog time!^^/
This blog is all about a play I wrote and starred in. This play is about my life when I was small. I showed everyone what it’s like to live with Autism and explained how I saw the world from my point of view. However, before I talk about the performance itself I feel that it’s necessary to dig further into the past. By doing so, it will explain a lot of things and my past going into the performance. It won’t take long. I promise. =)
- BEING DIAGNOSED / NOT SPEAKING
I was diagnosed with Autism around the age of 2, when I was attending nursery education unit. It was usual for children to attend the nursery for one year. However, since I was part of the special needs area I stayed there for 2 years. The doctor who diagnosed me with Autism said that I my quality of life will probably never improve. I will never look anyone in the eye, I will never engage in a conversation and I will more or less be trapped in my own world. For a few years, he was right…
When I turned 5 I started to attend a SEN school. It was literally just up the road from my old nursery, so that was a bit of good fortune.
In my school days, especially when I was younger, I was extremely quiet. Because I was quiet and was unable to communicate, the teachers found it hard to understand me. Not necessarily because to be mean, more likely through lack of knowledge/experience. They would often talk about me and my “problems” in front of me, assuming that I didn’t know what they were talking about. However, I could usually read the situation by their facial expression and tone of their voice.
The majority of my school life was frustration. The frustration of not being able to talk. I think I was probably capable of speaking but I didn’t know how to. I think my subconscious held me back from speaking and interacting with others. I was able to string sentences together when I was 10 or 11. Before then I just spoke words every once in a while. I even started to open up my bubble a little bit. I somewhat started to understand how the wide world works.
Being able to speak was good and it did feel like a massive personal achievement. However, since I started to speak, it did cause some troubles every now and again. I could speak, but I didn’t realise the words that came out of my mouth. From a teacher’s point of view, whatever I said, I must mean. I have said a lot of rude things that I didn’t realise were rude or inappropriate. I never meant to be rude or upset anyone so it was a big deal if I did this. This is where the frustration came in. The teachers took what I said at face value. If I said it, I meant it. I could never explain my words or what I meant. So, I had to end up apologising even if it was all a misunderstanding. Situations like this knocked my confidence completely and discouraged me from talking.
That was all just one part of the problem.
- QUESTIONING MYSELF
I went to the Bobby Charlton’s School of Excellence that one time, and I must say that it wasn’t a happy experience. It was the first time that I interacted with people who were “mainstream” i.e., secondary school students. Out of everyone in the local area I was the only “special needs” student that attended the whole programme. It was a big problem for me. As I was the only “special needs” student attending, there was a lack of understanding, I feel, for people like me. It seemed that the coaches in general were more used to secondary students rather than special needs students and so they didn’t really bear this in mind. The secondary students were not very understanding towards me either. They often whispered about me under their breath and called me “weird”, even when they were right next to me.
By lunch time I really wanted to go home. However, my pride kind of kept me there. In my eyes I refused to be defeated even if I did feel everyone there was against me. I strived to be as good as they were. That special needs students like myself could cope on the same stage as them. My hopes were dashed when I scored an own goal…
We all laugh about it now, especially me. However, it was a very humiliating experience at that time. It was also from that minute on that I started to question myself as a human being. Why was I being treated that way? Was it because I made that mistake? Was it because I was weird? Was it because that I had “special needs”? I started to dislike being in an SEN school, I started to dislike the mainstream people and I started to dislike myself. Why was I born like this? Why couldn’t I’ve been “normal?” I saw everyone who went to mainstream school as “normal” and myself as not normal. Haha.
- COLLEGE SUMMARY
I left my school when I was 18.
I went to a college that specifically catered to people with “special needs”. It went under the title of Supported Learning Department. I severely disliked being part of that department. I was determined not to go to that college because I didn’t want to go to that department. Haha. However, my local college didn’t offer the support that I needed. I was then offered a place at a different college which had an SLD department. I attended the SLD department for one year. I was lacking a lot of confidence and spent the rest of my experience being reserved.
However, I attended a Mainstream programme on a part-time basis, within the same college. It was the Performing Arts class. I felt happy yet very anxious. Was history going to repeat itself? Is this a chance for me to “redeem” myself? My thoughts were very conflicting and it was a constant battle with my own thoughts. In the end, I decided to be quiet and neutral when I attended these classes. If I didn’t say anything, then I wouldn’t get on the wrong side of anyone. I promised myself to not tell anyone about my Autism. I maintained that persona for most of my college life, even later when I started to attend that Mainstream programme full time.
- OPENING UP
Things got easier when I started University, which was based at that same college. Usually, I would have to attend the follow up course to prepare for University. However, all the tutors deemed that I was ready to start a full University programme, and I accepted a place on the foundation degree course. =)
On the first day, with a fresh new faces joining the course, I decided to tell everyone that I had Autism. With discussions with my tutor we decided that it would be best to tell them, and strangely, I felt ok with it. It’s probably the first time that I didn’t hesitate telling anyone about my Autism. I opened up to everyone and to my surprise no one isolated themselves from me. That was odd, I thought. Was I perhaps worrying for no reason? Or, is it because some of the Uni students were adults and they were more open-minded? Whilst I opened up to my fellow classmates and gradually started to be myself, I still kept my guard up.
- FINAL PERFORMANCE PIECE
It was March and we, the Uni second year students, were discussing what we could do, as individuals, for our “Final Performance” module. I was struggling for ideas myself.
All I could think to do was to do these bunch of comedy sketches that I had written myself. However, I wanted a decent mark and doing these little sketches wouldn’t constitute a high mark. Do I turn these sketches into a lengthy play? It was a concern. Comedy is my forte, I think, since it’s a style of play that I am most relaxed in. Although I was aware that this was my forte and it’s for my final performance piece, I anticipated that it was going to be a disaster. I would probably have been over the top when acting out the sketches and too energetic.
I spoke with my tutor about my concerns. I then spoke with him privately about an idea that I came up with on the spur of the moment. I did have some difficult times at Uni but I did remain mentally strong in most of situations. I appreciated my classmates and everyone I spoke to for making my Uni life easier and happier.
I’m not one for being sentimental so I wanted to thank everyone but cop out at the same time. So, I thought, what if I did a video to say “thankyou” to my classmates and to everyone else who had supported me. I was prepared to open up about all my worries and doubts and how everyone’s support had made my Uni experience much easier.
It was at that moment, Mr Ian said:
“I think it would be amazing if you did an Auto-Biographical Performance of your life with Autism.”
…there was a bit of silence. It took me a long time for this suggestion to sink in. An Auto-bio performance? Like an auto-bio book but in play form?
“Like, talk about my life?”
I asked, but deep down I knew full well what he meant.
“Absolutely. It has been done before.”
It really was a surreal moment. A bunch of things entered my head. It wasn’t that long ago that I revealed to my classmates about my Autism. I was still iffy about revealing more of my Autistic quirks. Could I manage to talk about my past and experiences? Thinking about my past is difficult, let alone talking about it. How would I fair?
Part of me was screaming “go for it!” but there was still doubt in my mind. I decided to ask for family and classmates opinions; somewhat hoping that some of them would oppose the idea. I asked… all of them thought it was a great idea. The votes were unanimous. Haha.
I had to think about this for a week. I did get stress thinking about it. Was this a good idea? In one way, this may be a good chance to get a lot of things off my chest. Then again, was this going to break me? Doing a performance about my life was certainly a lot easier than forcing comedy sketches to be funny.
A week went by and I made my decision…. Am I going to do a performance based on my life with Autism?