This article is not for neurodivergent people. Well, you’re welcome to read it, but it’s aimed at neurotypical people. Most of what I’m about to tell you is normal for neurodivergent people, it won’t surprise you. These experiences are common ones. This is hoping to make those who don’t experience these things a little more aware of those of us who do, and how that affects us.
Hi. I’m Kitkat. Yes, that’s my actual name. I am 22 years old. I struggled at school and thrived at university. I went from being a C student, to receiving one of the top marks in my year. Oh, and I did a three year degree in one year and still achieved a 1st. Is that a boast? Yes. Yes, it is. But, it’s also relevant.
If you looked at me on paper aged 7, you would probably realise that I wasn’t exactly normal. “So much potential,” my report card would always read. It would talk about how I refused to speak up in class, and that I insisted on singing my answers. According to Miss Page, it was “disruptive,” “unacceptable,” inappropriate.” So, I stopped. And suddenly my parents were worried because I had become entirely mute for several days. Even when playing by myself, I didn’t sing a note or utter a word. To the outside world, I was a brat who played up because they didn’t get their way. My mother got me tested for learning disabilities, and they told her that I was completely normal.
If you looked at the world through my eyes aged 7, you would probably realise that I acted perfectly rationally. When I received that feedback, I didn’t realise that it was a complaint. I did participate in class, I was still communicating, but in a way I was comfortable with. When asked to stop communicating, I did. I didn’t understand why people then had an issue with that too. Words weren’t sinking in the right way up, so I would turn my head and read sideways. That helped, somehow. But apparently, I wasn’t taking the class seriously and I wasn’t concentrating. When my mother took me to a test, I thought back to all the other tests I’d had. I needed to pass the test, right? So, I masked. I pretended to be what everyone wanted me to be. When I was 12, I had an eye test, and through the process of elimination I managed to pass. My parents couldn’t understand why I still struggled to see even though I had perfect vision, according to the eye test.
If you looked at me on paper aged 14, you would think I was a perfectly normal individual who just didn’t try very hard. “Actually revise, and you might get somewhere. Stop fidgeting in class, and you might actually take in some of that knowledge. Stop talking so much in the lesson and you might finish your work.” If you saw what I saw, you’d know that I had revised, exactly like the teachers had told me to - watch this video to find out exactly why that didn’t help me at all. You’d know that I needed to fidget to focus. As soon as I stopped, I couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying. And, I wasn’t gossiping, I was helping the person next to me. I may not have finished the sheet, but I understood the algebraic problem, hence getting the right answer with no need to write out how I knew it on paper, and my friend Daniella didn’t. Did the teacher expect me to just leave her struggling on her own? He thought that repeating his words louder and slower somehow helped. “It doesn’t matter how loud you speak to her, she isn’t understanding the way you’re explaining it, so let me translate it to her. She clearly doesn’t speak your language as well as I do.” Apparently, that was rude. I thought I was just stating the obvious.
Daniella and I both got tested again, but this time I was told not to try to pass and to tell the truth. Turns out, we were both neurodivergent. So, what did the school do now that they knew we had a different brain neurotype and so learnt completely differently from “normal” students? Absolutely nothing. Well, we were allowed to bring a laptop into school to work on instead of a notebook. We got 25% extra time in exams. But in terms of the actual teaching, nothing changed. So, essentially we just had more time to struggle… yay… I had fought for a diagnosis for years and finally when I had one, it didn’t even matter. So, I kept closing up. I was still told off for trying to learn in a way that suited me, still told that I wasn’t trying hard enough despite giving everything I had until I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, which also didn’t change anything. School taught me that who I was, was unacceptable and that my everything wasn’t enough.
It’s not all doom and gloom. I went to university with a new drive, ready to argue why I needed to learn in a way that suited me. I was lucky enough to have a pretty great group of lecturers who didn’t even need convincing. The beauty of self led learning, I suppose. And, can you guess how that affected my learning? Right! I actually succeeded. I was top of the class, almost top of the year, and in a third of the time that everyone else had. I was pretty freakin awesome, if I may say so myself. But I can’t help thinking, what could I have achieved if my entire education had been like that? What would have happened if I wasn’t told to medicate to change who I was, to learn in a way that hindered me more than it helped?
If you aren’t neurodivergent and you’re still reading this, please be patient with us. We’ve been taught our entire lives that we need to change ourselves for your comfort, so could you try to do the same for us sometimes? Don’t expect us to make eye contact. Don’t get frustrated when we look like we’re not paying attention. Don’t react negatively if we unmask in front of you, it just means we trust you! And, most importantly, please realise that what we were taught at school is not something that we can easily forget. To this day, I struggle to tell myself that my everything is enough, I still overwork myself and cause burnouts because that was ingrained in me at an early age. I still hesitate before unmasking in front of my closest friends and family. Believe me, we are trying to unlearn everything we were taught at school, but that isn’t an easy feat. We will struggle. We will fail sometimes. We will break down and relapse. Some of us won't even try because we still live in a society where our existence is seen as inappropriate. If you have gone through any of this, you’re not alone. There are a bunch of communities you can enter who can support you. If you haven’t, please be patient and understand that the people who have are still affected by it.
Kitkat Anderson graduated from ACM in 2019 with a business degree. At university, she was chief editor and a top writer for the university ezine. In her spare time, she also enjoys creative writing, both poetry and prose. She spent a lot of time growing up in youth drama and music groups, and has never been afraid to be outspoken, which perhaps led her to performance poetry! Kitkat strongly believes that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. She feels there is a lot of pressure to be perfect, which is not healthy or realistic, especially for young people.
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area =
Gap/Space Between Posts = 15px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors =
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
We're always interested to hear from talented young writers, so if you'd like to feature as a guest author then hit us up for more details.