Autism and ADHD are invisible disabilities, which means they usually can’t be seen physically. This creates many misunderstandings between teachers, parents and students. Many teachers have a “one-size fits all”, way of teaching which doesn’t work for people with Autism and ADHD. It only complicates things and causes more conflicts between teachers, parents and students.
I never could sit still in class and always had to keep my hands busy, and would draw in class, and was having my colored pens taken away just for drawing in class. When I was in school, it seemed that if someone wasn’t directly looking at the teacher, it was assumed that they weren’t paying attention. But for people with autism and ADHD, it is painful to keep looking at the teacher and just sit there without keeping our hands busy.
Another major challenge that many of my teachers couldn’t handle was my sensory issues, especially sound sensitivity. They couldn’t understand why I couldn’t handle background noise and chatter from the other students. I even had one teacher give me lunch detention just for yelling in class, due to sensory overload.
Sending me to another classroom didn’t work either. The same issues with my sound sensitivity would arise no matter where I was sent in the school. I was miserable at school, because my anxiety, depression, and sensory issues were so bad. To add insult to injury, the other students knew about my sound sensitivity, so they would trigger my sensory issues intentionally.
The teachers did nothing to keep the other students from upsetting me, because the offending behavior from the other students needed to be seen or heard from the teacher. I actually think some of my teachers either ignored it, or were just too focused on me acting out, due to being intentionally triggered.
I had to mask my autism as much as possible and I had to force myself to succeed in all my classes. I had to be something I’m not, just to hopefully fit in and lessen the chances of being bullied. When I was in school, my autism and ADHD was more profound, so I become an easy target for bullies.
From my teacher’s perspectives, they probably saw me as a defiant, strong-willed student who didn’t know how to behave in a socially acceptable manner, when actually I required more support then they could provide. They felt that they could not help me in the way that I needed to be helped. Despite the medication I took, it still was not enough.
The lack of understanding from my teachers was hard because it was one teacher to 15 to 20 students. They could not give me the attention I needed and still meet the needs of the other students. I could not be comfortable at school because of of the severity of my Autism issues at the time.
For a student with ADHD and autism to be successful in school, they need the right amount and type of support. My autism issues were too complicated for them to handle. There is only so much training that can be done for teachers and school staff. Not all teachers are passionate about teaching. Some just do it, because it is just a job to them. Being a teacher isn’t just a job. For children, their biggest influencers are their teachers when they are not with their parents. “If children cannot learn the way we teach them, then we should teach the way they learn”
Do you or your loved one struggle with being misunderstood by your teacher?