MY NAME is Tyler, am 11 years old and have Asperger syndrome – which is on the autistic spectrum. I like to be reminded it’s not just me, there are other people like this. My interests include Nintendo, mathematics, physics and coding.
I have been described on many occasions by friends as a quirky professor type. I find this analogy very satisfying. I have learnt when something or someone is different, most neurotypical people feel the need to generalize and place your behavior in a box – or categories you.
People like to make sense of your behavior and why you appear to act differently. I aim to be a professor in math and science one day so perceiving me as the nutty professor is how people cope with me being different, how they put me into a category and I take this as a compliment.
I have lessons at home now because the school I was at didn’t understand me. They knew I had Asperger’s, which means I have high-functioning autism. When I say “high functioning”, the assumption is I have autism but I am able to function, to fit in, to be normal, just with a few quirks.
This is not the case. I have autism. I have sensory processing difficulties. I also get pain in my joints, I have a developmental co-ordination disorder that makes it difficult for me to run or even walk in a straight line at times.
I have grab rails fitted at home to help me get out of the bath unaided and get up and down stairs safely. I am not ashamed of having these aids. All they do is allow daily living to be manageable for me. Does it change the person I am? Am I less able to read a book or achieve my potential because I find things more challenging? No, not at all.
Children like myself are forgotten. We are ignored by the educational system but the knock on to our mental health is disgraceful. We are the invisible children. We achieve high grades, we hand in our homework on time.
We will not cause you problems in the classroom, we will be polite and will follow instructions to the letter because this is Asperger’s. I became depressed and had a nervous breakdown because I could not cope any more in an environment that didn’t understand my needs. The word “depression” had never been mentioned but this was me.
I felt as if I was being punished for being autistic. In Year Five I spent nearly all of my time alone in the school corridor. How can you be punished for being you? When I became depressed I lost my love of learning.
I no longer desired a book the moment I got out of bed, nor did I care about math. The core of who I was and what drives me was gone. I didn’t function and simple tasks became arduous. I remember rocking on the floor, shouting out sounds and I remember my mum sleeping on the floor next to my bed.
I felt like an odd key in a world where I would never be able to open any of the locks. Where would there be a place for me? Where do children like me learn? Am I that different? Then Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services appointed a doctor who worked with me and never belittled me.
I was able to tell him all about me and what I had been through. The most important thing was that he listened. He stopped my free fall. With regular appointments and the love and support of my family I slowly started to regain my footing. This makes it sound easy – it wasn’t.
It took many months to start my recovery. One year on I feel well. I am excited for the future. I love writing and have just discovered I have been accepted at a school that welcomes children just like me.
I am nervous but I have been reassured that it will be different. I feel I finally have an opportunity to be me and reach my potential. I have already achieved one of my dreams which was to write and publish a book before I was 20.
I feel so honored to have done so at the age of 10. My path to becoming a published author began two years ago when my grandmother received a terminal diagnosis and was cared for at the Marie Curie Hospice in the West Midlands.
When we as a family were at our most desperate and enduring the most horrendous pain, Marie Curie welcomed us in. My grandma had a beautiful room and was given end-of-life care with dignity and respect. After a last magical Christmas my grandma passed away on December 27, 2015. When you lose someone, you love you feel part of who you are has been stolen from you.
My life as I knew it had been changed forever. I grieved as an adult would. I was constantly upset and couldn’t rationalize the process in my mind, unlike my brother Haydn, who is two and a half years younger than me, who was able to grieve for short periods and then play. Marie Curie supported me during this time. My grief counsellor Ann helped me process my loss in a way that I understand and now I can finally talk about it and how it affects me today.
As part of my recovery I began writing my book about autism, grief and how I see the world. If I can reach just one parent to help them see that life can and will improve then I will be happy. I want people living with Asperger’s to never give up. It can get better and things can change. Don’t give up, believe in yourself and embrace the differences.
Extracted from Invisible Me by Tyler Inman, published by mPowr Publishing, £9.99, available from amazon.co.uk. For each copy of Invisible Me purchased a donation will be made by the publishers to the Marie Curie Hospice, West Midlands.