This year was supposed to be my final year of school.
It was the year I was supposed to get my senior jersey, supposed to have a school formal and supposed to make memories with friends as our schooling journey comes to an end.
However instead this year I sat on the sidelines, treading a different path. And while I sometimes feel jealous looking at my friends and what I call ‘normal kids’, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I, like many other teenagers in Australia, left school last year due to what’s been deemed ‘school refusal’. School refusal is when children are unable to go to school because they are too anxious. Additionally, students with ADHD and Autism are twice as likely to experience school refusal. So as a young girl with autism ready to enter the school gates, the odds were already stacked against me.
School refusal is such a prevalent issue with the media focusing in on it as rates increase but very few times do you read about it from a child’s point of view. So, if you are a parent with a kid who has a similar story to my own, this is for you:
I was once where your child sat. I was once that vulnerable, anxious, sad, angry, aggressive, and distressed young kid. You are not alone on your journey and things do get better. You may feel isolated and lost right now but I am writing to show you that it gets better. After 10 years of fighting this battle, my family and I are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am treading my own path, which is much easier said than done. Watching all my friends do what I looked forward to doing, and more importantly, what I feel I should be doing is hard. It is difficult not to feel like an oddball when it appears to be something everyone does. But as I look back at all the stress school brought to me and the intensity at which it destroyed my mental health, I am grateful to have the option to do what is right for me. What I wish I could have read when I was younger was stories similar to my own so I could feel less alone, so I am writing this and being vulnerable to help others like me.