The past few weeks, my life has felt very uncertain, even my present feels unknown to me. So in order to regain a sense of stability I’ve been relying on the god-send that is hindsight. My past is after all relatively certain.
Over the last two years I have managed to overcome the majority of my main ‘issues’. Those that were triggered by my traumatic experiences in high school: being bullied and kicked out etc. However, there some aspects of myself I am still not happy with, some feelings I just can’t seem to shake off.
Looking back over my life I’ve realised these concerns stem deeper than I previously believed and are in fact triggered by my experiences in primary school. To put this in context for you; there was a boy in our class who left after the first year, he returned two and half years later and remembered me as ‘the girl who pinches people’. It is only now that I’ve developed an understanding of myself and autism in general that I’ve realised the reasons I used to lash out. As a child it was the only way I could express the feeling of overwhelm that I was experiencing. Without the diagnosis, understanding and support I needed, me hitting people was not a rare occurrence.
My first few years at school I spent more time sitting outside the headteacher’s office than I did in class. No one needed to tell me that hitting was wrong, I knew it. I never wanted to attack, which is why I spent a lot of my time sitting in the corridor, on display to the rest of school, crying my eyes out.
For over seven years I was simply referred to as badly behaved and naughty. The day I started my fifth year in school the teacher announced ‘If I already know your name it’s probably a bad thing’, obviously directing the comment towards me.
The dictionary definition of naughty is: badly behaved; disobedient.
The dictionary definition of behaviour is: the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others.
Both of these insinuate a conscious decision. I never chose to act the way I did. Spending my childhood constantly being told that was I badly behaved has left me with a never-ending need for approval and fear that everyone is continually judging me. 12 years after leaving primary school and I still feel ashamed about specific incidents despite being able to recognise the cause.
Behavioural Issues is a term still broadly used today but I don’t think it should be. Instead of automatically punishing and consequently outcasting children every time they ‘misbehave’, teachers need to be asking the question ‘why?’. I’m not doubting there are some children out there who do just hit because they’re nasty, but every single child is different, so why are they all treated the same?
PS. Although I’ve been repeating a lot of this in my mind for a while it was the BBC 6 o’clock news yesterday that finally made me write it (link to article here). Grouping ‘behavioural issues’ with mental health conditions frustrates me just as much as the term itself. They are different and needed to be dealt with separately.