Primary school struggles

"In 99% of cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."

All I can say is thank goodness most people don't think like that. I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when I was nine. I don't remember much about my childhood – I feel left out when my friends talk about how fun school was in reception class.

The only real memory I have of it is hiding under a table and feeling really stressed out. Most of primary school was distressing and all I remember is that I really hated it.

I really couldn't deal with being in a classroom with other people all day, when all I wanted was to be alone. I didn't know how to talk to people or make friends and being close to others made me very uncomfortable.

I began to run out of class to be alone, which was so much easier and much more fun. I loved to pace up and down for hours on end if I could and in fact, I still do that nearly every day, listening to my iPod. However, back then, if people tried to bring me back into class again I kicked and hit out.

Getting support

I don't remember being diagnosed, but the result was that I got a full time helper to avoid being excluded. Mrs N was amazing. She soon became the person I was closest to at school. She was firm, but very kind and funny, and I miss her a lot. I would never have managed primary school without her.

However, things did slowly change for the better. I was told I would get a Gameboy if I didn't run out of class for the whole six weeks leading up to Christmas. It was really hard to do, and I needed Mrs N every step of the way, but I managed.

Finding the right school

People began to wonder about secondary school. My mum and dad thought about a special school but decided against it. So we went round lots of local schools. I hated some because they were so big and noisy.

One school told my mum that because I had a statement I would be in the front door if I wanted - but that they would have me out the back door as quickly as they could. Knowing that hurts even now, years afterwards.

Although we looked around many schools I already knew where I wanted to go. My school is all girls, small and really friendly. I fit in and have a group of eight friends, but I get on well with nearly everyone in my class. I only had two friends in primary school. I am doing really well with my lessons and I'm expected A*s in all my GCSEs.

Hopes for the future

I'm looking forward to being more independent, starting sixth form and learning to drive. Living on my own will be hard because I find it very difficult to fill in forms or make telephone calls – I had to phone the bank recently and when the man came on the phone I panicked and couldn't say a word! I'm sure I will manage these things eventually with help from my parents.

Telling people about autism

Some people at school still don't know 'about me'. Until quite recently I guess I felt ashamed of being different, afraid of people's reactions.

They wonder about that time in year eight when I screamed and hit out, they wonder why I have two helpers, and I'm sure they wonder why I put on my iPod sometimes, screen everyone out and pace up and down the room. But they don't ask about it and I'm pleased that they don't.

I feel comfortable enough around my class to pace in front of them when I need to. My friends don't care – to them that is part of what makes me 'Ellie'. Other than that, you probably couldn't tell anything about me was out of the ordinary if you met me.

Eye contact is difficult and although I like going to the cinema on my own, if a stranger sits next to me I panic and want to leave. But I have learned that if I stay, I will eventually get so absorbed by the movie that I’ll simply forget they’re there!

Challenging myself

A while back I made a big step and decided by myself to go to some mock job interviews to help with eye contact etc. I was shaking when it was time to go in but I did it and my feedback was really good! My interviewers certainly hadn't noticed anything different about me.

I don't like my routines being disrupted and it will be difficult to transition to the sixth form, but I know I will soon settle down and I am sure I will like it – in fact I am looking forward to it!

My own story has taught me that as bad as things can get when you have autism, they can get better too – just never give up!

Accepting myself

It upsets me when people who know nothing about autism say it would be good if there was medication for all people with it. I don't want a 'cure' or any 'treatment' whatsoever.

I couldn't imagine being 'normal' and far from being ashamed of being different, now I can confidently say, "I'm an Aspie and I am glad I am".