What It Was Like Going to School Without Knowing I Was on the Autism Spectrum

Jaymi Craik
Empty school classroom with sunlight streaming in.
Empty school classroom with sunlight streaming in.

If you had to explain autism to a child, what would you say? How would you make them understand? How would define the word? Autism affects children and adults who have difficulty in social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Nobody understands what a person is thinking. Professionals could work for years in their field and not know how a person thinks or why a person does what they do. All the signs could be there, but we would never fully understand why we do what we do.

I wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until I was about 23 years old and I wish I’d known about it sooner. I think it would have given me a better understanding of why I would get frustrated and why I had a hard time connecting with my peers. If I knew back then what was going on, maybe I would have been taught how to handle things better. Oh, the things I wish I knew back then.

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I had my moments in school. You knew there was something there, but just couldn’t figure out what it was. It was the little things I did or said that made people know there was something “off.” Some subjects were harder than others and teachers would say things that would get mixed up in my head. I always got As and Bs in school. I showed up every day and did the work, but I never did well on tests. I would know the answers, but once I start getting tested on it. I would freeze.

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It took me eight years and 15 tries to get to my learner’s permit to drive. When I got older and the classes were getting more advanced, I did what I could. I was still a good student, but I think my high school teachers had their suspicions. Some of the teachers were kind enough to make classes easier for me to understand, but in other classes, I caught on fairly quickly. If it was a subject that involved being creative like film or theatre, I felt like I belonged because there were people there who were as creative as me and we were able to work together and create something we were proud of.

Math was a tough subject for me. I would confuse the division and multiplication signs in my head. I’ve always loved numbers, but those signs looked the same. After I had failed math twice, I was put into a math class that was easier to understand. I was allowed to use a calculator in class. After a while when I started to understand, it started to become easy to me and I was able to do the work more quickly. I started to like going to math and it became one of my favorite classes.

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I was also in speech therapy until about grade 4. I would leave class once a week and learn how to say certain sounds and letters. I don’t think it had to do anything with Asperger’s. Even today, I still have trouble with speech. I mumble my words, or I talk fast when telling a story, or I just want to say something before I forget. If I have something written down beforehand, I can rehearse it before saying it out loud so I can make sure I say words clearly and enunciate. On occasion, it takes me a couple of seconds for my brain to tell my mouth to say something.

I always enjoyed school. I loved to learn. I still love learning about things. I always looked at my brain as a sponge, soaking up information and storing it. I have so much information about different topics, sometimes it’s hard to keep it all in. So many ideas, so little time. My brain is filled with information other people wouldn’t care too much about. Sometimes knowing too much can turn people off, but it’s my way of having a conversation. I’ll talk to whoever is listening. I have a habit of repeating myself because I feel like people aren’t listening to me, so I just keep saying the same thing over and over until someone reacts.

I was able to graduate high school in 2006 with my peers, but sometimes I wish I knew about my Asperger’s back then. Maybe it would have helped me get a better understanding of what should I do after graduation, but I guess everything happens for a reason.

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