Birth to College

Growing up I was very lucky. I had great parents and a supportive family. We lived in a good house and neighborhood. We would get the extended family together every Christmas and Thanksgiving. We were always there for each other.

My mom did whatever she could to help me flourish. She would meet all my teachers and kept track of what was happening at school. She did a lot of research such as reading books and going to conferences. My dad worked a lot but always made time for my older brother and me. He played games, built stuff, and roughhoused with us. My older brother has always been a huge influence on me. I have always looked up to him. We hung out, talked a lot, and confided in each other.

Early Years:
My parents knew something was wrong at 18 months old. I was delayed in crawling, walking, and talking. I did not behave and interact like other kids. My parents spent tremendous time helping me, researching, and trying to convince people I needed help. People, including doctors, said it was them being bad at parenting and me being a bratty child.

The first few years of my life were chaotic and debilitating. I was disoriented, confused, and sensitive. The smallest of changes sent me into rampaging tantrums. I was so sensitive to touch I would not let my parents hold me; a very important bonding moment my parents wanted but could not have. My clothes had to be soft and free of tags. I struggled to communicate and interact with other people. It was difficult to have a conversation with anyone. Words sounded like a cluttered blur; when I spoke words were unintelligible and in the wrong order. I could only remember one instruction at a time and only learned by watching.

When I was seven years old I was diagnosed with three disorders. The disorders were autism spectrum disorder (met criteria for classic/low functioning but classified high functioning because of high IQ), mixed receptive-expressive language disorder (formally auditory processing disorder), and sensory integration disorder (aka sensory processing disorder). Doctors said my best chance was a mental institution but my parents refused.

Elementary Through High School:
From elementary school through high school I slowly learned how to interact with the world around me. I continued to struggle socially. I had a hard time interacting with people and had developed social anxiety. My language had fully developed but I still had trouble communicating. The hardest part was putting my thoughts into spoken or written word.

I had to work extra hard to succeed in my classes. I had accommodations to help me and I got along great with my teachers. However, I endured a lot of bullying by my peers and stigma from adults. The bullying usually was being ignored, criticized, or taken advantage of for my smarts. In high school I was told I would not graduate and would not go to college. I would end up at a dead end job.

To deal with the emotional trauma of life, I learned that laughter always cheered me up. I often did activities, mostly quiet ones, to reduce stress. Despite all I went through and the low expectations I graduated high school with high honors.

College:
In college I went at a slower pace, taking fewer classes. I learned that I did better and enjoyed my classes more if I went slower. I was great at talking to my professors when I need help and had a great relationship with them. However, I felt like I partially invisible to my classmates. They knew I was there and would mostly pay attention to me yet I still felt alone. I always felt like I did not fit in with the students with disabilities. I needed fewer accommodations than many other students. I did great in my classes and did not struggle with a lot of the issues most students with disabilities dealt with.

I started college at a community college. I learned how to navigate college life while I lived with my parents. I finished most of my general studies courses at the community college then transferred to a university. At the university I continued my studies, eventually declaring my major in behavioral science. I took courses in psychology, history, sociology, and anthropology. I fell more in love with the social sciences and my fascination with the human mind grew. I learned a lot about the human mind, why people think and do what they do. I applied what I learned in my classes to my life. In particular, socializing with people became easier and more enjoyable. I graduated May 2015 with a bachelors in behavioral science with a focus in psychology and a minor in criminal justice.

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