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Asperger Syndrome and Communication Difficulties: A Personal Perspective and why Higher Education is a possibility Chris Jesson OMEGA Disability Event.

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Presentation on theme: "Asperger Syndrome and Communication Difficulties: A Personal Perspective and why Higher Education is a possibility Chris Jesson OMEGA Disability Event."— Presentation transcript:

1 Asperger Syndrome and Communication Difficulties: A Personal Perspective and why Higher Education is a possibility Chris Jesson OMEGA Disability Event Tuesday 6 th July 2010 17:00-20:30 1 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

2 Note Just to note that I will be expanding on the notes made in this presentation but do feel free to ask me more questions during the break or after this session has finished. 2 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

3 Asperger Syndrome Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Dyspraxia, 1999. Went through the mainstream education system Autism and AS has become a major interest area in the past 5 yrs. Member of the National Autistic Society since 2005. Have been writing a book Aspergers and Me, 2006-2010. My background Specific Interests and Degree Always been proud to be from the Midlands, albeit flatlands of Lincolnshire! I go to Sheffield University and study Urban Studies and Planning (4 th year) Have a keen interest in Geography, walking, swimming and maps. A big petrolhead, but the irony is that I cannot drive as yet! Have been focused on Town Planning since age 12. Disability Representation This is a very big specific interest. Sheffield Union Disabled Students Councillor, and student forum chair Oct 2008+ National Union of Students Disabled Students Committee/Board Member, Mar 10+ Recipient of the Sheffield University Chancellors Medal 2010 for services to disability support work. 3 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

4 Pre-Higher Education Drawing conclusions of personal interests and schooling Pages 5-8 Contents of presentation Taking the next step The importance of taking opportunities to participate in your interests Pages 9-12 Any Questions 4 Drawing comparisons and conclusions Pages 13-14 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

5 Pre-Higher Education Drawing conclusions of personal interests and schooling Marked social difficulty interacting with other people -Impeccable behaviour with older adults -Inability to understand people of a similar age -Struggling in group situations -Difficulty distinguishing ones personal space.... -...but very clear in setting my own space. -Low personal confidence -Could not read facial expressions -Intense supervision from teachers, -Not exploiting academic potential Specific interest areas -Drawing large A1 Plans and maps age 6+ -Very routined towards churches/buildings -Practicing interest areas reduced anxiety - But communication was affected as others did not respect my values and hobbies. -Lacked the social skills of compromise to try out new skills -Compelled by transport 5 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

6 Pre-Higher Education Drawing conclusions of personal interests and schooling A theme of examination -Psychiatrist, Psychologist, GP, family examination into my problems, school reports... -Crucially lacking the skill to examine myself and the impact of my behaviour on others The role of education in assisting my communication in the early years -Symptomatic of a low level (but growing level) of awareness into AS in 1990s -Treated as an arrogant schoolchild because of this lack of awareness -Sense of desperation as to what punishment to give me for behavioural disruption (or where to put me) -Influenced social communication difficulties because I would be suspended or taken out of class on many occasions -Growing maturity of other children was the opposite to my stunted social development 6 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

7 My experiences of obtaining the correct support including statements -Limitation of early support was clear -SEN Statement granted in 2000 (after two years of hard work trying!) in time for secondary school -Marked impact on guidance and application of a learning support assistant -Process of annual review to monitor my performance and behaviour -Speech therapy years 1999-2002 -Psychiatrist in Nottingham 1999-2004 -In class support worker valuable for initiating basic social skills in class/lunch (e.g. Time out when stressed, suggested responses to teasing, help with personal morale, and also (underestimated) as a friend). -Annual review process sounds regimented but I suddenly had a benchmark or goal to perform to, and this integrated well with the social techniques my support worker was helping with. -I took this programme literally in my personality led by facts and figures to read I need to learn this, because I have a review in June and I want to be advanced from where I am now. Pre-Higher Education Drawing conclusions of personal interests and schooling 7 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

8 Making step from primary to secondary education/Communication and bullying -Bullying less of an issue at primary school but very marked at secondary level -Communication became more difficult in year 7 (changing interests of others versus stagnant interests in my world) -It is important to identify who is going to school with you that you know (Impact on bullying because some had already seen my situation & exploited it before) -Difficulty witholding from my specific interest areas, which made me stand out (e.g. Train conductor scenario) But light at the end of the tunnel: (previous support practices assisted formation of acquaintance friendships, personal confidence to go on school trips, less frequent behavioural episodes, no unwarranted disciplinary, first ever group work discussion, the ability to read ones mind ) Pre-Higher Education Drawing conclusions of personal interests and schooling 8 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

9 Taking the next step The importance of taking opportunities to participate in your interests Social & academic developments in FE/HE - Sixth Form was a new school in a different environment -Discussed my AS from early on at sixth form and University -Established pride in having AS, and at one point it became a specific interest area -Nobody had any connections to me and this helped reinforce a fresh start -Confidence had built up enough then to retract some support methods -Forming the first reliable friendships, where people would consider me as part of their network of friends, not just me thinking they were a valuable person -A reinvigorated difficulty establishing an understanding of others interest areas -Disabled Students Allowance, exam extra time and Student Support Worker Scheme at University creates a structure to each week and financially assists with added course costs. Other social advances and why they are positive -Ability to respect others interests was finally understood at university -Closed environment at university mostly suits me because I can move away from the aspects of social life that present anxieties and specify ones I feel comfortable with -I have developed leadership skills to the point that group situations are less difficult -Being a representative voice for others with AS is a reflection of bringing something back to the community now I feel happy that I have changed. 9 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

10 Taking the next step The importance of taking opportunities to participate in your interests Reaching the dream: working in a specific interest area of Planning Planning is well linked to my AS as it has been a specific interest area since aged 12/13 It is a very fact and process based profession which suits my personality I could not consider many other options I consider having AS as a valuable attribute towards being more focussed in careers than other people I know Difficulties that still take place in everyday situations -Marked difficulty in building relationships, but then again dont we all? (confidence of talking, recognising eye contact...) -Still take the majority of situations literally (e.g. This can be difficult in jobs, work experience, or in the home etc) -Very rigid ways within the home that present anxieties if abused (e.g. Getting up at strict times, reinforcing a routine and a diary) -Cannot adapt well to change and very sensitive to noise and obstructions (fire alarm) -Can consider the values of others too much and this stems from previous attempts to retain friendships at secondary school 10 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

11 Taking the next step Perceptions in the HE environment about my AS vs previous situations -Other people are far more inquisitive now and do not recognise my AS -Most require a discussion about what it means -More and more people I speak to have some connection to ASDs, whether it be through their family, school, relationships and so forth... -There is a distinct struggle to grasp the main symptoms of AS because many see me as the example, when I have learnt to mediate the issues I had and appear milder in case than some other people with the condition....But this is better than previous cases, as it is without the bullying, the challenge to be accepted, and the challenge to know what to do. There is less of a cloud hanging over me now compared to yesteryear, although generally anxiety still prevails because of what I was talking about on the previous slide. After gradually building trust and friendships, the anxiety of being bullied turns to an anxiety of losing those friendships and connections, and I am often in danger of trying to do the rounds of seeing people to keep this link going. But as I have perseveered into the masters year I have realised that that was a fad for other people that I was trying to tap into and that the value of being myself had been wearing away. For the 4 th year I will live at home rather than in Sheffield and this is one example of going back to my roots and identity. 11 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

12 Drawing Comparisons and Conclusions Communication difficulties of 1990s, early 2000s and late 2000s -As reflected in Asperger and Me: Child Struggle (1990s), Teenage Change (early 2000s) and adult maturity (late 2000s) Anxieties then versus anxieties today -Knowing what to do, where to move, how to say things has long gone. -Todays anxieties prevail in sleeping difficulty, losing friendships and noise sensitivity -Out of those 3, sleeping and noise sensitivity have been lifelong anxieties Turning from a fear of AS to a proudness of AS -Could not return to behavioural difficulties but I feel that having AS gives me the individuality that shapes me to be a better person in some regards than others. Despite the difficulties encountered I consider from my case that having AS potentially makes you more organised, spatially aware of your surroundings, and focussed to achieve what you would like to do in the future. It can the institutional/educational processes aside from this that limit the aspirations of people on the spectrum, and I would not have got to where I am without the likes of those actors I mentioned earlier on in the presentation. I leave you with a short statement: 12 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

13 Drawing Comparisons and Conclusions Taking the negative issues out of the equation it is simply an absolute delight to recall past aspects of being a standalone figure in the class, the home, the street and other environments. Turn back the clock and I could not envisage any pride of having AS, but now I find characteristics that define me are positive, not the generic person on the street as positive. This is me and my ways in my world (when appropriate of course) that is surely something to treasure when there is so much pressure these days to be monotonous, and what the media or your peers insinuate you should be like. University is a bubble of an environment where you may meet 1, 10, 100 or 1,000, but the number of people you find that share common values is never of importance. I consider the ability of the university environment to practice what you feel comfortable doing rather than ironing them out as extremely valuable. These beliefs have made me more reflective of getting as far as higher education and pushing to go further and achieve the results that only come with effort. This of course, comes with support in place. Crucially, widening participation by means of increasing student places, and programmes including Aimhigher has served to benefit many people who are academically strong but were under-confident about background issues, or did not have their potential noticed by the higher education system through providing high quality education with high quality support. This can only be a good thing. 13 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

14 Any questions? I have now given another 5 minutes for questions, but would be more than happy to speak after 14 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson

15 Thank you for listening More information Email me at Chris.Jesson@nus.org.uk I will be around after this talk for a brief chat and hoped to have spoken to you beforehand. Keep up to date with my blog on education, politics, town planning and disability at : http://chrisjesson.wordpress.com 15 OMEGA AimHigher Disability Event University of Nottingham presentation by C.Jesson


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