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"I slowly but surely became more confident, better at talking to people and less shy when meeting new people"
As a person with autism, finding my confidence took time - but I got there

Well, my story is that I have autism. As a child I didn't really have any friends outside of my family. But I gradually worked on this over time.

This meant that in primary school I would spend the play time in the school yard alone. At the time I didn't mind though. I found a lot of the other children annoying and I enjoyed being in my own company and going on great adventures in my imagination during play time.

I think some of the other pupils found me strange. I didn't like to talk in class; I just preferred to get on with the classwork that we were given. At times pupils would approach me at break or lunch time and ask me if I was able to talk. I always answered, "yes," and sometimes added that I just didn't want to talk or that I didn't have anything to say to them. I may have been bullied a little. Though I think that many times other pupils were trying to be nice to me, or to get me to join in in their games or something like that. At the time, I just assumed that they were trying to tease me or patronize me, and I assumed that they had bad intentions.

I did, however, get along well with my parents and my sister and my cousins who lived nearby. My cousins were all slightly younger than me and I liked being the eldest among them, although I sometimes found their actions childish and I got very annoyed at them.

Image of student in the CS Lewis Room

I was diagnosed with autism when I was nine years old but my parents didn't tell me about it until I was about fourteen. They didn't want me to feel like I was damaged or lesser in any way so their decision is understandable.

At times when I was a child and even into my teenage years, I would seemingly overreact when my Mum or Dad told me off for misbehaving or accidently doing something wrong. I would become distressed and feel guilty at knowing that I had done something wrong. Then I would cry and wail, and just feel awful inside for anywhere between ten minutes and half an hour. On some of the worst occasions it would go on for up to an hour. I now recognise these as meltdowns which people with Asperger's or autism like myself are known to have.

When I started secondary school, my first year felt much like primary school. I didn't talk to the other students and I felt that same level of resentment and bitterness towards the students who annoyed me by patronizing me or by interrupting the class by talking when I was trying to listen to the teacher.

I was bullied in my first year of secondary school. In the boy's changing rooms where we changed into our PE gear many of the other boys mocked me and made fun of me for being shy, for not enjoying sports and for not being physically fit. I felt really sad and annoyed about this and I complained about it a lot to my mum.

Thankfully the bullying stopped. I think those boys didn't realize how much it hurt me

She phoned the school and told the teachers about this so my PE teacher had a word with the other boys. Thankfully the bullying stopped. I think those boys didn't realize how much it hurt me and were shocked once they were told about it.

However, things did start to change during secondary school. In my second year I did a stand-up comedy routine in the school talent show. I enjoyed it and it was well received. In my third year, my older sister recommended that I join the junior branch of the local amateur musical theatre group given that I had enjoyed doing the stand-up routine and had enjoyed the primary school plays that I had taken part in. I did and although I was still very shy at first I made an effort to talk to the other youths and I came back to rehearse and perform with the junior group for four years in a row. In my fourth year with the juniors I even got a lead role of the Tin Man in our production of The Wizard Of Oz.

This helped to grow my confidence greatly and near the end of my third year in secondary school I even found a group of friends who shared my interests who I was able to talk to and sit with in the school canteen at lunch time.

I slowly but surely became more confident, better at talking to people and less shy when meeting new people. 

Through all of this and some hard times during my teenage years where I struggled greatly with guilt, stress and an eating disorder, I slowly but surely became more confident, better at talking to people and less shy when meeting new people. Through talking with others and forming connections my empathy grew and I was finally able to better understand the thoughts, feelings and perspectives of my friends, family and peers. Looking back I think the main reason for my desire to be alone and not befriend other people my age during my childhood was my difficulty in empathizing with others.

Image of student in CS Lewis room holding up large polaroid shot

Once I had finally developed my ability to empathize, I was able to be not only the best student to the teachers but also the best fellow pupil to my peers that I could be. For my second year of A-levels, my final year at secondary school, I was chosen by the teachers as Head Boy. While I was in school for that final year I enjoyed it so much. Everyone, teachers, staff and students alike, was friendly to me and said hello to me when they passed me on the corridors and they knew my name. I genuinely felt that I was the most popular student in the entire school.

Though my younger self probably wouldn't believe it, as I resented the popular children back in primary school, I never had to put anyone down or boast or wear a fa├žade to be popular. By the last year of secondary school I had grown so much as a person that I was just being myself and most of all, everyone appreciated me for it.

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Image of student in CS Lewis Reading Room with red t-shirt

I had grown so much as a person that I was just being myself