by Casey, age 16, Mississippi, USA

One of my earliest memories consists of me watching the other children play on the playground and make friends with each other while I am sitting on a bench a distance away, flapping my hand around, wishing that I can somehow be a part of their world… and yet I am not sure if I really wanted to be a part of it at all. It is the second week of kindergarten and I am already an outsider in the other children’s eyes.

The week before, I was watching the other children play while trying to block out the noise at the same time. They were all on the slide sliding down a rail and a teacher was helping them. She noticed me standing off to the side and asked me to join them. I hesitantly agreed.

I stood in line waiting, and when my turn came I was too scared to go down, even with the teacher there. 2 girls behind me started to scream at me, saying, “Hurry up, you slow poke!”. “Just go down, you stupid!”. Their words hurt me and I started to cry. They apparently found this amusing and started to taunt me. The teacher finally said for me to get out of line if I was too scared to do it.

Looking back now, I would say my elementary years were terrible, no matter what ANYBODY says. I guess I did seem odd to the other children, with my limited facial expressions and vocabulary and how I flapped my hands, waved around hair ribbons, and made strange noises. 50% of the kids bullied me, the other half ignored and neglected me.

At age 5, I went into speech therapy and after a few months I could speak like any other child at my age. It wasn’t until I was 6 years old that I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and High-Functioning Autism. I did not find out about my diagnoses until I was 12 years old.

But getting back to my childhood, the half that did bully me would play tricks on me, trip me, hit me, push me, taunt me, make fun of me, start rumors about me, spit on me, and other terrible stuff. It wasn’t long until I started fighting back and acting on revenge. Whenever I would tell the teachers, they would just say to ignore them… but when I did something to them – and it was mainly, like I said, on self defense or revenge – I would get in trouble. The worst thing was when I was in 5th grade and our homeroom teacher would not allow me to play with the other kids. I believe 5th grade was when I first thought about suicide.

6th grade was probably my best year in elementary because that is when I made my first 3 friends. In 7th grade, I made some more friends. It is also when the worst rumors about me started. Some are so ridiculous that to this day I laugh every time I think about them, others were so cruel that I try my best NOT to think about them.

By 8th grade, after years of horrible bullying and a certain terrible event that I am not going to put down, I started to get very depressed and angry and thought about suicide alot. I stopped hanging out with the few friends I had and kept to myself, refused to answer questions in class – or talk to anybody for that matter – and cried alot. I had started to hurt myself such as biting or scratching myself or banging my head against the walls. I was a mess, and it seemed like no one cared.

Then one day, I wouldn’t stop crying and said that I refused to go to school and if they did make me go to school that I would commit suicide. That was a Thursday in January 2005 and my parents told me that I would start homeschooling and go see a counselor.

The next Monday I started homeschooling and I really liked it. I have homeschooled ever since. Soon after I started homeschooling, I went to see a counselor and we talked once a week. They put me on several different medications to see what would help me the most, but the side effects were bad. One medication made me faint every time I got over heated! But rest assured, I am on meds now that are really helping me. But even though life wasn’t as depressing or as hard, I still had depressive attacks and anxiety attacks. I wanted more friends – true friends – but I wasn’t sure how to make them. I bought alot of books on how to make friends and other books about Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, and ADHD.

In January 2006, I went to a local social skills group for kids my age with the same problems. I wanted to get the basics in social skills and to meet other kids like me. While I was there, I noticed a girl who was very quiet and I reached out to her and we talked. Her name is Elizabeth, she has Asperger Syndrome, and to this day we are the best of friends.

I made lots of new friends while I was there. When group was over I started joining several group activities with regular teenagers and I have made lots of friends. I am very good at reading, writing poems, songs, stories, drawing and painting, singing, playing musical instruments, and learning foreign languages. I’m still bad at math and dancing, but hey who cares? I want to be a psychologist and a writer when I graduate from college and I want to adopt 3 children. Yes, I have plans, talents, and great friends who love me. I am no longer afraid to be myself. I have accepted my autism and I tend to look at the bright sides of it instead of the down sides.

AND I have forgiven my tormentors and I am nice to them when I see them. Most of them are nice back. But sometimes I look back and think about how I was mistreated because I was judged as different. And before I get depressed I grin and say to myself, “They laugh at me because I’m different – I Laugh at them because they are all the same!”