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  • Writer's pictureBekki Semenova

Autism and Growing Up

The first few months of high school for me were really frustrating. I felt extremely alone and isolated. Everyone was asking my name, and showing me around; but all I could do was look around and stare at the floor in silence.

What’s your name? - One of the teachers has asked me. I made small letter-shapes on the floor to slowly spell my name. I was too anxious to even take out my writing board and write my name.

Why does the system have to constantly traumatize their students like me, and especially when approaching the last few years of elementary school, constantly coercing students to get good grades and succeed?

Teachers never tell their students, “if you get a good grade, you will get as many candies as you like!” Or “if you finish this sheet, you won’t get any new assignments or homework for two weeks!”

But, instead of taking that approach, teachers usually end up making their students extremely anxious and depressed, constantly instilling fear and other negative emotions in their autistic students. For most autistic people, the regular approach of motivation clearly doesn’t work and we need a more understanding and compassionate approach specifically tailored to us.

We constantly get told, “When you grow up - you will have more responsibilities, you need to get ready for high school and adult life. You need to be prepared for the future.”

As a result, most people on the autism spectrum find it easier to avoid than to be prepared, and I am one of those many people.

To encapsulate, in my opinion, in order to improve the mental and emotional well-being of students like me, who are autistic, using a more positive and less-directed approach helps a lot more.

Why is adulthood portrayed as something with so much responsibility and independent living? While it may motivate neurotypicals, it only creates avoidance and fear in people like me. Moreover, a lot of autistic people may not be developmentally ready to do certain tasks or take on certain responsibilities by a certain age.

I don’t think it’s right that society teaches people that when you reach a certain age in adulthood, you are neglected and forgotten, that you need to be mostly independent to survive. To elucidate, most autistic people think of growing up as a time when they are neglected with help and support from society, family, and so on.

How about living another way - a more positive and inclusive one? How about teaching our kids, especially if they have autism or any other disability, that they will be taken care of forever, no matter what circumstances occur? That our schools and family members will not expect us to go to college, university or get a job, if we don’t feel ready for it, even after we have surpassed a certain age?

If an autistic person who is growing up is exploring a certain interest, instead of saying, “Later, you can find a job in this area,” we could engage and learn with the person together in their interest, that way we eliminate any sort of expectation, and in turn, teach our young autistic youth that freedom in life does and can exist.

Let adulthood be an extension of childhood.

No expectation of moving out, maintaining the house, working, going to university, and so on.

Instead, a person with autism can look forward to taking trips, exploring, eating good food, whatever they like - without worrying about anything. Without having to earn an income or anything of that nature. Without having to worry about how to live independently or maintain a family.

I assure you, that by following this scheme, there will be significantly less incidences of mental health issues in autistic kids and youth.

Thank you for reading! And thank you so much to the autistic community for always supporting me and being there for me!

Bekki Semenova

Vaughan, Canada

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