Not Speaking The Same Language
Let me tell you a little about my education life. I started primary school at the age of 5 (I should have been at least 6 years old where I am from), because I learned to read and write independently. I always hated going to school, even though I completed my education in the department of Office Management at Hacettepe University, the MA in Human Resources at Continuing Education Center of METU and then the Public Relations Department at London School of Public Relations.
Despite my hate about going to school, my passion for learning and educating myself outside of any form of school continues. I continue to uptake training to improve myself, however, even the thought of going to school is still a nightmare for me.
I always felt like an alien during my primary school years, mostly because I lost my mother early. Yes, I knew how to read and write, but I could not get along with my friends at all, I felt that my teacher did not love me, but I never knew why.
Years later, when I said to a primary school friend I’d met at the time that , “I was distraught because our primary school teacher didn’t like me”, her response was, “of course, she didn’t”. “She was so sure of that, I was shocked. She continued “You were constantly asking questions, and sometimes it was impossible to answer your questions, you were always talking, sometimes you wanted her to prove what she said, it was impossible to convince you, or you were withdrawn entirely and it was impossible to reach you. You were different from all of us, and it was not easy to understand you”.
The problem of not speaking the same language as those around me started from those times. The pain, loneliness, and desire to be accepted at that age caused me to make many mistakes and they were the most defining emotions of my entire life until I was diagnosed. Feelings and believes of that my teacher did not love me, my friends did not take me to their groups, and that ultimately no one liked me caused my relationship with the lessons and the school cut off completely and I was withdrawn.
In the meantime, from the outside, how I was doing at the school, the view was very different.
As I memorise everything very quickly, on all special days, such as April 23 (children’s day), May 19 (youth day) , October 29 (Republic Day), I was always on the stage to reciting poems as part of ceremonies. I was considered one of the well-behaved, exemplary students who recited the longest poems, wrote extraordinary essays and took responsibility for organising social activities. Yet, I suffered from physical ailments frequently. Ear-aches, often rising fever, hoarse voice, which was thought may be due to my tonsils, and splitting headaches started at a very young age and followed me until I was diagnosed with autism.
In my teenage years, everything became more difficult. I became much more vicious and stubborn. I survived my high school years without any accident, thanks to my guardian angel, my dear teacher and the assistant manager of the school, Gülümser Marşan. My life would have been different, if she hadn’t protected me.
Yes, I wrote books, completed my higher education, started a family and had a son; but, all those hard feelings were with me for fifty-odd and unhappy years. I spent my years going to hospitals every week, using drugs, receiving therapies, staying in hospitals, unhappy, withdrawn, mostly incomprehensible and angry.
There is only one thing that I understand and am sure of because of my own experiences, my son’s experiences, and the Autistic support groups I currently joined and have been leading in Wales; the relationships that children establish with their teachers and friends affect their entire educational life more than anything.
I think the greatest need of autistic children is to be accepted as they are, and then to be educated with teachers who will allow them to be themselves and understand them.
Rest assured, we do not speak the same language as you, so sometimes researchers are wrong. Please do not put aside your assumptions or your knowledge while listening to us.
As someone, who has been trying to speak the same language with you for years, I would like to underline again that I paid a heavy physical and mental price for this. Rest assured that I wouldn’t be alive today if I didn’t have a son who would have been left behind.
Today, I’m living in a small town in the middle of Wales, where transport is not easy and I haven’t got a car. I’m living in a Welsh Cottage, not a manor house with a swimming pool. I know very few people in here. I’m not a well-known writer to appear on the TV or newspapers.
But, I create a new life for me and my loved ones surrounded by the nature, away from city and people. I learnt not to hide my true self and carry a mask anymore. I believe the more important thing than providing with a good education is to allow children to be themselves, otherwise, you can be sure that even if they get the best education, their physical and mental problems will never end.