The high school years are difficult for anybody. Teens face the difficulty of figuring out who they are, and have to deal with the peer pressure coming from dating, sex, alcohol and drugs. Being a student in high school, I have noticed that parents do not teach their kids respect and understanding others as much as they should. I have been a target of bullying and gossip throughout my entire life. Ever since I was in kindergarten, not a day goes by without having to listen to somebody point and laugh at me, or make a rude and judgmental comment about me. Because of this, I don’t really have that many friends in school. Many times, teenagers act like this because they want to look cool around their friends. They think that friends will accept them better when they make another person look bad for no clear apparent reason.
If you remember on my two blogs titled “do social skills groups help all students on the spectrum”, I mentioned my odd, obsessive interests that changed throughout the years. During my preschool and toddler years, I had a huge interest in fans. When my parents would take me out places and I would see a fan, I would perseverate about it. I remember my mother telling me one day that I would always stop and stare at ceiling fans and refrigerator fans. If you recall from the same blog I mentioned earlier, there was one incident where my mother lost track of me when we were shopping at a grocery store. She was shopping in an aisle that was on the other side of the store and tried to ask me a question but I wasn’t there. She then looked around the entire store for me, and then she saw me staring at the fans inside the refrigerator. My mother also said that when she found me, I was staring at the fans for about 30 minutes.
As I got older, my interests in fans faded away. When I was in third grade, I became fixated with fire drills. Our school was completely remodeled, and we got a new fire alarm system. Ever since the first time I heard the alarm, I would constantly talk about it with around the other students. I didn’t even realize that the students have had enough with me talking about them until they finally said “Derek, stop talking about fire drills already”. My limited interests also caused some bullying when I was in elementary school. During recess when most of the students were running around and playing with their friends, I would always walk around the playground alone. I realized that nobody really liked me, and that they wouldn’t be interested in playing with me during recess anyway. My parents talked to the teachers and explained that they wanted me to join in activities with my peers, but I simply didn’t want to because they didn’t like me. If you remember from my blog about understanding others, there was a student at Computing Workshop with a more severe case of Autism than I have, and he also had Down Syndrome. He used a special computer called a dynavox to communicate. He had a set of beads that his mother gave him to play with, and during free time he would always sit in the corner and twirl them around. He was in his own little world when he was sitting and playing with those beads, and this student’s parents would always complain about his teachers taking the beads away from him as a punishment for not paying attention to the teacher. The teacher would not let him play with the beads during free time, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. The staff members at Computing Workshop also seemed to think that this particular student used playing with the beads as a method of dealing with stress, and when an adult that doesn’t understand his diagnosis takes that away from him, he won’t know what to do with himself. That is when he will start being uncooperative and not listen. I can identify with this student when I think about my experiences during elementary school, I was in my own little world when I would walk alone during recess. I didn’t pay attention to anybody, and nobody payed any attention to me. Because my parents wanted me to “play” with my peers during recess, my teachers would try to force me into doing it. There were times when I would try to resist to throwing a football with another student, or playing on a jump rope, but my teachers would grad me by my shoulder and push me into doing it. Back when I was in elementary school, I didn’t really have the coordination to catch footballs or play jump rope.
My coordination with catching a ball and participating in team sports have gotten better over the years. The majority of kids in high school should know that making fun of someone because they aren’t gifted at sports, or for any other reason is not acceptable. You have one of those arrogant jerks in every crowd, and the best thing to do is to ignore them. I still do have coordination issues now, and I have been around people who do not understand my Aspergers and that don’t have the patience to cooperate with me. I had to deal with one of those people recently in my electronics class at Lenape Tech. We were putting together a windmill that is going to power the greenhouse that belongs to Lenape’s Natural Resources shop. I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, but it was one of those activities that required strong hand/eye coordination, which is also required for playing most team sports. I didn’t quite understand what we were doing, and the teacher was not in the classroom at the time. We were working in groups, and a student very inappropriately lashed out and had a fit with me. He said something like “God fucking dammit Derek, I can’t believe you don’t know how to do this. You are so stupid, damn junior”. Yes, I realize this student didn’t understand my lack of coordination, but there was no excuse for him to lash out at me like that. After the whole incident, I walked away and asked if I could work with another student or have the teacher give me an alternate task to complete for the day. I should not have to deal with somebody that is going to treat me so rudely.
Because of all the social isolation I have been through throughout the years, I still have a difficulty trusting people. When I meet a new person, I have the tendency to think that they are going to try to make fun of me. It’s hard for anyone to get out of thinking that, especially for people like me. If you remember me mentioning how Mike, my old therapist would try to shove social skills down my throat. From my perspective, he seemed to think that depression and anxiety are things that you can just “snap out” of right away. When he would push me to the limit by putting me in social situations where I felt very uncomfortable, I would resist to it. I don’t like it when people put me on the spot, especially when it’s in a group of peers that I don’t know very well. It has always been difficult for me to deal with people like Mike who are “in your face” about things. If you are one of those kind of people, I will try my best to avoid being around you. It will take time for me to develop social skills that I am going to need for life, and hopefully they will help me deal with all of the rude people that I will have to be around. Those kind of people are everywhere you look, and you have to try your best to avoid them. If people are not willing to get to know me as a friend, then it is their loss, not mine. I have no need to worry about people that want nothing to do with me, they are the ones with the social skills problems, not me.
I am willing to be friends with any person who will accept me for who I am, and that will not try to change anything about me. I am beginning to have a better understanding of who are my real friends and who are not. If you are trying to trick me into believing that you are trying to be nice to me when you are really not, I will eventually find out. It hurts to be rejected by people, and it also hurts to be “set up” by them. I don’t really care if I don’t have a whole bunch of friend to talk to, one or two is enough. As I have said before, “quality is better than quantity”. If I do ever lose a close friend, than I will move on and try to find someone else to be friends with. It’s not my problem if you want to be friends with me, it’s yours. Forget about all of the people that want nothing to do with me, I’ve got other things to worry about. Graduation is coming up next year, and these people won’t mean a god damn thing to me.
Before I go, this is a message to all teens and young adults. Always remember to stay true to yourself, and don’t ever change. I have had to deal with countless people that have rubbed it into my face that they want me to be like they are, when I don’t want to do that. There will be people in life that act that way, and the only thing you should do is to just sit there and ignore them. My “social status” with my peers in high school doesn’t mean anything to me. I hope you enjoyed this, and that you will take all of this advice, and share it with anyone who may need it in the future.