May 9, 2020 at 7:45 pm #378adminKeymaster
My story is a painful one. And for most of you reading this, you can relate. “Sit up straight, stop looking out the window, raise your hand, ask permission to use the washroom”. This was my first exposure in what would be a long and conflicted relationship with the education system and teachers and principals who served as its wardens. I use this word purposely because school was very much like a jail to me. It locked me up physically but more importantly, it locked me up intellectually. Of course I would escape to the playground (similar to the prison yard?) and be placed in the corner or outside the room if I misbehaved (non-compliance/solitary confinement).
After reading this description, most neurotypical readers would be asking “What kind of rebel kid was this?. I was the quietest, most respectful child you would ever meet. But I wasn’t keeping up with the compliance training program. Can you relate? in fact, I was so behind that I failed first grade. My report card provided the following feedback “Robert daydreams too much”. I kid you not. Word for word.
Of course, it only got worse from there and no matter how hard I worked I was always getting mediocre returns on my effort. It’s not that I had poor grades but I hated everything that the grades represented and how I had to get them. Homework. A completely useless exercise, unless it was intended to be an exercise in futility and wasted effort.
This continued through to my university years. Why, oh why did I carry on to university after this legitimate prison release after my secondary schooling? Glutton for punishment maybe. Maybe I was still trying to prove to myself and others that I wasn’t “lazy, crazy or stupid” (in the words of one of Ned Hallowell’s books). I pushed to the point of physical, emotional and mental breakdown … but I got my degree and even graduated magna cum laude (the dean’s good list). I paid for it with years of physical fatigue and mental lack of clarity. But I put myself in that box sure and soundly for 5 years (yes, I even signed up for an extra year of punishment).
So that’s the end of it, right? Well, no. I love learning, and I couldn’t find work (that’s another topic for another post – but you can probably relate to this problem as well, it often comes with the neurodivergent territory). But as I got smarter, I dropped out alot more. Is this program ND inclusive? Of course it isn’t! None of them are. And I am out of here … How many stories have fellow NDs shared publicly and with me personally of dropping out? Too many. Sometimes that works out for the best. At the very least, it doesn’t work out for the worst. But it leaves us in a precarious position and without any of the credentials that society demands in most work cultures in order to gain access to opportunities. I say most because there are exceptions.
For many of you, as much as you hate school … that’s how much you love learning. In fact, you may even be insatiably curious. You are probably self-taught, question things, try lots of low-cost experiments and look for help from a small group of informal mentors and coaches to grow in your understanding of any topic. For others, the system has beaten you down and broken you so badly that you are either feeling completely helpless or you rebel against everything and feel completely out of control. I have felt both ways, sometimes at the same time.
The worst part is the lack of understanding and acceptance. Even by fellow neurodivergents who have been integrated into the system. They are often the most broken of all, and in turn can become a most dangerous and destructive force. The prisoner becomes the warden. I have experienced this as a student as well, even in recent years. It saddens me. They have absolutely no empathy for fellow NDs, and have taken on many of the characteristics of the system in its exercise of brutality and narrowmindedness.
What to do? Well, let’s start by sharing in conversation. Maybe there is some healing in this. But I also see people who get stuck in a victim mentality, and I don’t want that for you or me. We need to have a place to cry on each other’s shoulder but then get on with the work of educating and experimenting our way to justice, human rights and equal access to opportunity.
Are you in? Join me, and stay curious.
Robert M Peacock
Multiple Trait ND & Self/Other ND Advocate
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