Very often I’m asked about how well I did at school, and the answer I give is that I generally didn’t do well academically. My educational story is quite long-winded. Yet in this blog I’ll give an overview of my academic path (inside and outside of school).
As a toddler my mum began doing one-on-one educational sessions with me. The main things she taught me were colouring in, reading, baking cakes, tidying up, writing, doing basic maths and drawing. Prior to beginning school my favourite activities were organising the cutlery drawer, looking at street directories/atlases, and learning to read from the newspaper. I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading at the time. However from that I did learn how to spell and sound out various words. From the age of three years to early school age it was a fun activity for me to ask how each new word I heard was spelled. As a point of interesting reference the first two words I learned to spell were “lightning” and “thunder”.
When I began school I enjoyed sight words, learning spelling lists, and even correcting my teacher’s spelling! Something else I enjoyed thoroughly was learning the world’s flags, countries and capital cities. I also liked learning the planets of our solar system and the names of their moons. From all that many people looked at me as an academically gifted child, who would whizz through school and become a brilliant mathematician or scientist.
However there is much more to life than just rote learning lists of facts, and having a good memory for them. Simply knowing the facts isn’t too useful if a person doesn’t understand exactly why they’re the answers. For instance remembering our times tables at school is useless if we don’t understand how to calculate the sums themselves. The same can be said that knowing how to spell every word isn’t much use if we don’t know the definitions and how to use them in sentences.
Thus the main difficulty I had at school was that despite having a very good rote memory ability, I didn’t have good cognitive and hypothetical thinking skills. That brought my marks down enormously which was a surprise to many, including many teachers. I had been in psychotherapy for my anxiety since I was three years old. Yet my ability to remember lists of facts and words gave many a false impression that I didn’t need extra assistance at school. I wasn’t put on a special education program until Grade 11 and so much work outside of the mainstream curriculum needed to be done by that time, and I only had two years left of school. As a result of that I ended up being ineligible for educational qualifications from my school years.
Though after graduating school in November of 2007 I didn’t want to give up on my life. So I continued to teach myself catch-up skills that I had missed at school. For that I used a combination of useful strategies I was given at school and exercises that I had discovered within myself that worked for me. Materials I used were books from my local library and
educational computer games. In some areas (mainly with comprehension skills) I had to begin from primary school level and gradually work my way up a little higher.
My post school years began in 2008 and since then I’ve advanced far further than me, my family and therapists ever thought possible. It is true that I’ve still got a fair way to go until I’m fully independent. Yet me, my family and friends (some are even former teachers and therapists) am satisfied with the progress made so far, and I enjoy to continue pushing (though not pressuring) myself to go a little further.
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