Cut Off from the World

Excerpts of Stories by or About Persons with a Disability

When I was growing up, I feared playing on the playground. I never really fit in, and I was bullied relentlessly. I never had the benefit of a program like My Stronger Self to help me on my way.

Not being identified as autistic until I was eighteen threw me into the enormous grey area between “normal” and “visibly disabled.” This grey area is a vast, gaping chasm and escaping from it is extremely difficult if not impossible. As a result, no one really knew what to do with me, and I never received the support I needed to succeed, either in school or at home. It is only now, going to university so many years later, that I am finally beginning to succeed in life.

Academically, I generally did poorly even though my teachers recognised I was clearly highly intelligent. The curriculum could not adequately address my abilities, which to this day are highly divergent. I was far ahead of the rest of the class in Social Studies, but far behind in Mathematics.

Physical exercise is a source of great anxiety for me. I have come to picture myself doing any kind of exercise in a way that does not reflect reality: drooling, arms flapping, moving awkwardly. I was never able to reach my full physical potential when growing up, the only exception being skiing. In PE class, I would often stand around looking like an idiot while everyone else knew what they were doing. I was always too slow to get the ball in most games.

Finally, I have suppressed the human urge to be social so effectively that the urge no longer crosses my mind. I never had the opportunity to form meaningful friendships. Let’s face it: when the other kids are obsessed with Nintendo 64 and Pokemon and you’re obsessed with the history of BC Ferries, they’re not likely to put up with you for very long. “What a freak,” they probably whispered amongst themselves. “What a loser.”

In third grade, I was bullied so relentlessly by a boy named Phillip and his friends that I came home in tears almost every day. Since that time, I have viewed socialising with great trepidation.

A self-esteem-building program like My Stronger Self could have helped me by giving me a sense of belonging and of self-worth. Meaningful inclusion and support in the academic, physical, and social spheres could have significantly enhanced my quality of life. It could have helped me develop the skills to build a social network of real friends. If this had happened, I may not have wound up spending most of my life cut off from the rest of the world.

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