I can remember a lot of instances of what I’d now describe as Aspie behaviour when I was at school. I tick a lot of the classic AS boxes: bullied, struggled to make friends, high IQ but underachieving, and just not quite ‘getting it’ in a variety of ways.
My Mum kept my old school reports, which I now have, and it’s been interesting to leaf through them and see if there are any clues to AS.
My senior school reports are quite vague. I get the feeling there were teachers having to churn out hundreds of comments, and they only picked up on things if they were extreme. There are lots of comments that are variations on the theme of “Nooch is working well and making good progress,” so many that I wonder if they actually had a clue who I was or just looked at the marks they’d given for my work on their registers and came up with something benign that wouldn’t show that I wasn’t really on their radar.
A few comments aren’t so great: “More effort is needed if Nooch is to improve her standard in PE.” There are quite a few comments about me being quiet, and occasional remarks that I needed to try harder.
in junior school, teachers have given more detail. “Nooch could be very good if she listened to instructions and was not so anxious to impress the class” – that ‘not listening’ thing crops up several times, and might relate to problems processing verbal information. It’s there again a couple of years earlier: “Nooch does not always listen attentively to explanations of new concepts, and then wonders why she does not understand.” Even at postgraduate level, I’ve needed very clear instructions, preferably written, to deliver what was required. If I know what I’m supposed to be doing, I can do it very well, but I’m not great at grasping what’s wanted.
I’m not so sure what was going on with ‘impressing the class.’ I remember overhearing comments from classmates who thought I was a bit full of myself, and a teacher when I was 9 noted that “Nooch prefers her own ideas to those of others.” That’s certainly true, now as much as then. So maybe I was showing off (it took me a long time to learn that this wasn’t socially acceptable).
Another interesting comment that might relate to this, and perhaps to AS, is “She is a difficult person to help. It can appear an intrusion to try to do so.” I don’t know of any specific examples I can think of, but I know I used to be very defensive about my work, so maybe that had something to do with it.
I got lots of praise for my creative writing (although one teacher perceptively noted that I had to be interested in the task to produce good quality work), but my comprehension of written language is picked up on a couple of times – again, this is blamed on a lack of attention, but I wonder whether I was struggling to grasp meanings.
There are a few other hints on other reports: at age 5 i had “some difficulty in coming to terms with the classroom routine,” and there are various comments that I’m content to make the minimum effort. I think this was probably just a little girl, aged 6 or 7, trying to work out what was required, and not realising she was expected to do better than her friends. I bet this is the same with lots of NT kids: you try to fit in by being like your friends.
There’s a lot missing from those reports. Nothing gives an indication of how unhappy I was as I struggled to fit in but was constantly rejected. Nothing indicates the stress I sometimes felt with work, and struggling to understand what was expected, or to work out how to organise myself. But I do think there are some hints in those reports of things not being quite normal.