My Journey With Autism
By Will Stokes | Published on December 1, 2020 | 7 Minute Read
When I was at Primary school, it was a lonely place for me because I didn't like crowds of people and they all got on my nerves. Even though I wasn't diagnosed with autism at that time, I knew that I was different from everyone else. My teachers didn't understand me and Labelled me as 'naughty' because I would get upset and frustrated and didn't behave like the other children. Things got better in Years 5 and 6 when I joined the school football team as I felt more included. I was really nervous about starting Secondary school and so my mum took me to the GP where they referred me to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 11 years. I felt relieved to know that what was happening to me had a name, which was autism. I wasn't just a naughty child who was a troublemaker.
I then started Secondary school and the first two years were manageable and I got on well with all my peers. I had quite a few friends. In Year 9 I started to feel different and my anxiety grew. I suddenly was unable to cope with crowds of people which was really frustrating. Everything was difficult and was struggling. I had become withdrawn and quiet and this made other students pick on me. They made fun of my lisp and said I had a wonky smile and big ears. They would flick at my ears which made me self-conscious and angry. I was afraid to smile or speak and felt really low. I became depressed and refused to go to school, becoming destructive at home and breaking things. My mum and dad tried to arrange a part time timetable with school and strategies to make the school day easier to manage. This didn't help and I ended up having 8 months off school. I became scared to leave the house and if I did ever go out, I shouted at people who looked at me as though they were staring at me.
When I was in Year 10, my mum didn't know what else to do. She demanded that CAMHS gave me another appointment as by this time I was so depressed that I was signed off from school. I was given anti-depressants which relieved some of the anxiety. While off school I enrolled in homeschooling which I did for 3 months before I went to a Special school called Triple Crown. Triple Crown started off well and I made new friends, enabling me to feel like an equal. After a few months things started going downhill again and people always tried to involve me in their own dramas which triggered my anxiety again. I started to feel depressed again and it got to the point where I just felt like giving up as nothing seemed to be going right for me. But as mum always said, "hard times never last forever and everything will be okay in the end", and she was right. By Year 11 we were looking at colleges when we came across Queen Alexandra College (QAC). We went for an Open Day and by the end of the visit I said to mum, "this is the place for me". We sent an application form and waited for an answer. In July 2016 the college rang to offer me a place on a 3 year course. I had never felt so happy in my life.
"Although I still get nervous at the thought of standing up on stage and presenting to people, I'm confident in talking about my story and my autism."
I started QAC in September 2016 and felt nervous and cautious about who to trust. I was given a Personal Tutor who helped me so much and made me realise that I can trust people and that I had so much potential to achieve great things. I have made so many lifelong friends and have gained so much confidence from being at QAC. I am now able to do work placements both internally and externally, go out in public, travel independently on public transport and was also elected to become a Student Ambassador at college. As an Ambassador, I talk to potential new students about QAC and meet with their parents too. These difficult experiences have shaped me into the confident person I am today. I want to take this forward with me to help other people understand what autism is and that it is nothing to be scared of. I'm just starting my third and final year at QAC and am using my experiences to talk to lots of people - some that I do know and some that don't. Although I still get nervous at the thought of standing up on stage and presenting to people, I'm confident in talking about my story and my autism.
I am so happy now and loving life and couldn't have done it without the support of my family, friends, college staff and most importantly my mum who never gave up on me. When I leave college I want to become a Learning Support Assistant in a special education environment so I can help young people like me. Hard times really don't last forever if you keep believing in yourself and never give up. I am very happy now and looking forward to a bright future. Thank you QAC for being such an awesome college and a life changing experience for me.
About the Author
Will Stokes (@wills_asd_journey) has Asperger's Syndrome more commonly known as autism. Through his instagram page, he shares his life and raises awareness for individuals on the spectrum.