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Service Provider » Blogging AS an Aspie
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Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.
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07 Mar 09 Suspended

At 9am yesterday, I went into one of the rooms at the specialist college to reclaim some travel expenses, and found that the person I wished to speak to wasn’t there. As I was waiting, I had a charming first-year student inform me “Boo hoo, Emily isn’t here, what are you going to do?” Followed by a couple of other patronising remarks. I calmly walked round to him, and in a joking-style, said to him “this is what I’m going to do!” And I lightly clipped him across the top of his head – no different to how I interact with some other people, it’s just part of me…

Anyways, this student doesn’t react initially, but a lovely female support worker then informs me that “You shouldn’t hit other students,” and I explained that wasn’t hitting, it was a light slap across his head, with no force involved. She repeated her information, and then the student started to join in – except he wasn’t quite so friendly, “F**k off out of this f**king room!”

Then, the lovely staff member advises me to leave. I ignore her, because I don’t make a habit of following staff direction when they basically repeat what a student has told me to do. I get about three more requests out of the pair of them, before the student threatens me, “F**k off out of this room, or I’ll f**king drag you out!” I move into the middle of the room, where there is space to defend myself, but before I have a chance to prepare for a block, the staff member has put herself in the way, and the student assaults her as she blocks him.

Then, I’m told that I must see the College Co-Ordinator before I leave – but as I’m pressed for time, I give her 60 seconds, and tell her to ring me for any information, or if there are any developments. Next thing I hear is my Mum ringing me at 1pm, to tell me that the service provider has rang my step-dad (at work) to tell him that there has been an incident and that there will be a meeting. I then rings the college co-ordinators office to find out who rang my parents, and why they didn’t inform me – both of them denied ringing them…

After a day out at GFE College, I went back to be informed that I’m now about to walk into a Stage 5 Disciplinary meeting (the highest it can go without involving an external agency), and immediately request time with my advocate. My advocate then refuses to read my statement of events, and tells me that she is there solely to check I understand what is being said. During this meeting I’m told that I’m suspended from the service provider, and that

24 Nov 08 Taking the piss

I make no apologies for the title of this post. The service provider really is going too far now, and has got me jumping through quite a number of hoops just to be able to meet my friend!

Regular subscribers will remember the saga back in April & May of this year, when I was directly ordered to not meet my then 15-year-old friend in town for the purpose of helping her revise. Needless to say, the service provider hasn’t particularly changed its stance much, and is following its usual ethos of ‘check everything to the nth degree, and then go back and check it all again’ before even considering anything. It’s hardly any wonder why I believe progress to be so slow…

Back in August, my friend had her sweet 16th. Ok, maybe not-so-sweet, but you get the idea! With me helping her revise for her GCSE exams, she was in Year 11 at school. Which meant that she must have been born between 01/09/1991 and 31/08/1992. To further back this up, she’s been constantly talking about her sixth-form subjects!

So, 3 days after that day, I was in my manager’s office, asking him to risk assess me to meet my friend. My manager is a genuine bloke, and although he feels he cannot advocate for me with this issue, he does pass on my requests to the senior management team, and returns their replies promptly. And what response did I get? It certainly wasn’t an “off you go, stick within the city centre risk assesment” type response I was hoping for.

I got a “could you ask your friend to show us some photographic ID with her date of birth on it please” response. My immediate thought was to tell my manager where I might well plan to stick her photographic ID if I get it! However, I then had to simply ask how I was supposed to obtain said ID without meeting her to borrow it from her, bearing in mind that she still couldn’t be allowed with the halls. I was told to ask her to post it! Charming…

Well, I came up with a novel idea this month, having not managed to be able to get my friend to be able to photocopy something suitable and post it to me. She has kindly photographed her bus pass using her phone, and pictured messaged it to me. I’ve then saved the picture, copied it to my computer and put it on a USB pen drive. Then I went to see my manager, and I put it onto his computer, and he will take it to senior management.

I miss my friend, and she keeps telling me she still has a hand-made thank-you card from when I helped her revise. I was meant to get it when I saw her for her birthday party, but I never ended up going to that. Her birthday fell right in the middle of the first aid duty I was doing all weekend, and I ended up so busy and distracted that it was the next day when I eventually remembered to call her and wish a happy birthday!

Anyway, I’m now just waiting for senior management to get back to me with the latest set of hoops to jump through!

17 Nov 08 Coexistence

In the last two years, I’ve lived in the same place. This year, you’ve heard me whinge about what I hate about it. This post is different, I’m not whinging, but it’s more of an exploration of curiosity.

The hall where I live is surrounded quite nicely by a private school. Now, naturally, that means we’re surrounded each weekday by hoards of screaming kids, a few teachers, and so on. Yet in my two years, I’ve barely seen any interaction between “us and them” as it were. Why? I want to challenge that, and also write about 2 years worth of minor observations.

Firstly, let’s look at the teachers. I know who the headmistress is, she was the one who turned up when the school caught fire last year, and is generally to be found randomly appearing near the crossing with words such as “Katie, tuck your shirt in!” or else “Brian, your tie has turned invisible again.” I can take a guess at one or two others – the large gentleman who parks in the back lane in his 4×4-ish car; I think he may be a head of year, he’s strict when he needs to be, but he’s always so friendly to the students, plenty have I seen him make sure someone wasn’t standing alone in the dark awaiting a lift home. Then there’s the older man who gets off the LRTS at the bus interchange and walks through the civic centre, I can set my watch by his arrival off the 0741; I think he might be a form tutor for the younger year groups. Based on the service he gets off, I can conclude he lives North of the river, towards (or in) the neighbouring town.

I’ve seen one or two of the older ladies come off the buses after school finishes, so I suspect they may be in the humanities department, after all that is where most school trips come from. I think one of them has a daughter at the school, or else some other school-aged member of her family. And you can’t miss the PE department, in their school-branded tracksuits, they’re often found walking a group of young adults to wherever it is they do outdoor sports. I can even tell you that students congregate in a corner of a certain car park before walking down to compulsory games lessons.

But, throughout my time, one student has stood out above the others, and for no other reason than her looks. She is rather well known by most male students in my hall, although until recently nobody knew her name. The rest of this post is a story about how the internet is a risk to privacy, and how such small things can lead you to a mountain of information. This young lady was noticed often in the mornings, waiting for her games lesson, always talking. I think what made it hard for everyone to forget her was the stunning curly auburn hair; that, and something else about her that nobody can describe.

Over the next two years, the students at halls have seen her come from gossipy-style-schoolgirl to a mature sixth former. Of course, she didn’t help us to not notice her. We discovered she had a boyfriend quite easily, as he moved his lips with hers, his hand through her hair, as they fell backwards over the railings at the zebra crossing. It was watching a love story unfold before our very eyes; and to think, people will pay 6 quid to watch inferior actresses in the cinema. Not that we could miss it, most evenings we had to walk past this sweet expression.

Should anybody have managed to ignore it though, there was one time that was so obvious; the two caused quite a fuss within the building! We were sitting waiting for our pizza to arrive, and it so happened to be the school’s open evening, and then one of my mates shouted across, “Isn’t that the fit one from that school – is that her boyfriend!?” After hastily slamming the windows so as not to interrupt their time together, a discussion broke out deciding who the young gentleman in question was; much deliberation settled on him being the ‘school jock’, but we were undecided on the issue of rugby or football. As our pizza arrived we settled in the kitchen, where we ended up with front-row tickets to the latest. There, sitting on our wall was what can only be described in the most intimate you can get without falling foul of the law! Another window-slamming ensures they don’t hear the wolf-whistling and vulgar comments from within, although it does disturb them slightly.

By this point, I know she is 16; I’d defy any visually-typical person to tell me they walked down the street and missed that badge covering her blazer! Not to mention, she was now in the 6th form, so must have been in Year 12. I could also pretty much say she lives in town; she walks down past the day college site, which only leads to the posh area of town or a bus route that stays in town. I also know what school she goes to – obviously! I don’t know her name, but I figure it’s time people in my hall and that school should be talking; for one thing, I ought to apologise for slamming the windows and disturbing her. Of course, in two years, I’d guessed at her name, Amy, Megan, Jessica, Louise, Cheryl, and many others were guessed!

So, in come trusty Google and Facebook. Nothing could be found from Google at this point, except to note that she’d been in the photoshoot for the school’s website when she was younger. Facebook didn’t reveal too much, except two groups related to the school; one of these was a current appreciation group for a current teacher. I couldn’t find anything to help me in the members list, so I posted to the wall and discussion board, hoping for an answer. It didn’t take long for somebody to give me a name, which I searched on to discover she doesn’t have a Facebook profile. Not to worry, as Google came up with plenty…

Put her name into the engine and the first link will tell you that she is 5′ 7″ tall (guessed that), has blue eyes (knew that), auburn hair (knew that), is dress size 10 (guessed that), vital stats of 34B/25/36, shoe size 7, inside leg is 32″, and specialises in photographic modelling! Sorry, but, whoa, isn’t this far too much information to be having on the internet about a 16 year old girl? Next result gave me her old Bebo profile, complete with pictures, and information including that she is a season ticket holder for the local premiership club as well as a “netballer obsessive”. The third result of relevance was a deleted Wikipedia page (information still available on Google’s cache) informing me that her boyfriend played football for a local academy, and lives in a suburb of town. I now also know her boyfriend is the Head Boy at school.

Then, the very next day after discovering all that, I had a random young lady add me on Facebook from this high school. I accepted, placing her onto my limited profile, however going with my ethos of getting some interaction going between the two establishments. After some messages back and forth on the wall, I discovered she added me because “xxx told me to” – my, my, doesn’t popularity do wonders for you these days? Weird how things can happen like that – apparently she had seen my original posting on the appreciation group and wanted to know if she knew me. Not having Facebook herself, she asked one of her friends to check me out…

Finally, this whole story is almost pointless. Her boyfriend has recently passed his test and now drives her home from school each night. I assure you he is a very good driver, and incredibly cautious with reversing! Except to say, the young lady who added me on Facebook will say “hi” if she sees me around – no doubt she will what with me living next to her school!

But back to the original… Why do people seem to have so little time for simple pleasantries such as “Good morning”? It seems sad that, looking back, there has been two attacks on the back lane between “us and them” and neither of the establishments has either been able to help, or cared much about them.

28 Apr 08 Absolutely ridiculous

Further to my predictions about meeting my friend to help her revise, I was still completely stunned at the response the service provider had for me. Like I said, I wasn’t going to tell them before I met her, because they would say no. I am, however, an honest person, and therefore I decided to tell my manager what I’d done. He was disappointed that I hadn’t told him what I was doing beforehand. Furthermore, this was to be the subject of an MDT meeting, and he felt unable to advocate for me.

Being a fair and reasonable bloke, he ensured that I would be given the opportunity to attend this meeting and voice my own opinions and arguments. Naturally, when senior staff get together, my opinion is considered irrelevant, although it is normally listened to. This time, I was called into the meeting to be told that they had made some decisions. Before I’d even sat down, I was already extremely angry with my manager, the deputy principal, the college manager and the psychologist.

They told me that they could not support me meeting my friend in town because she was only 15. I interrupted, saying that I’d known her for 3 years, we get on well, she is comfortable with everything, and that I am aware of what I’m doing. I tried asking if she could come to the hall of residence, and I could see her in a communal area with staff present. Or not, as the management pointed out the obvious child protection implications of having a 15 year old female unknown to the service in the presence of a male support worker in their building.

So, to deter me from meeting her in town, they then went on to point out the legal implications. What if she accused me of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or even rape? Because, as they pointed out, raping a 15 year old would make me a paedophile. That, and being on the sex offenders register would mean I couldn’t follow my career ambition of being a doctor (doesn’t this sound so familiar?). Then they went on to ask if her mother knew she had met me, and how old I was.

I was infuriated, because I do not wish to have sexual relations with my friend. I want to help her through her exams, and spend time with her. As far as I am concerned, I’m doing what most teenage friends are doing right now – helping each other revise for upcoming exams and spending time with each other.

Basically, the only reason they have as to why I can’t be allowed to meet her is that she is a 15 year old female. That, to me, is not a reason in itself.
And do you think it will stop me – no!

25 Mar 08 Parents’ Evening

I’m really proud of what I was told tonight by my two college tutors, both academically and socially. Most of all, they backed up what I’d been trying to tell the service provider for many months now.

Firstly, my Physics lecture expressed her disappointment at my latest exam result – a ‘b’. I was only 1 mark off an ‘a’, but 1 mark is too much to miss by! However, she is very happy with my work rate, informing my Mum that I am regularly provided with extra work which I always finish to a very high standard. My punctuality and attendance are excellent, both being 100%. Then my Mum asked about my social interaction, after explaining about my Asperger’s and how it affects me. And the lecturer was very positive, explaining I get on well with everybody, and help people when they ask me for it. I asked the direct question “Do you think that I need support in the class?” I was answered with a “No.” My Mum mentioned to us that she would bring up these comments at my forthcoming review in May.

Next, we went to Chemistry. Again, I was told by my very enthusiastic chemistry lecturer (he’s brilliant, bless him) that I perform to a very high standard in class and should not have any problems in achieving an ‘A’ for AS Chemistry. I was reminded of the deadline for the planning exercise, and advised to submit a draft of it soon, which of course I will. My lecturer then re-advertised his study clinics, which I admit to not having yet attended. The problem is that they fall when I’m usually with the specialist college in Sunderland. However, I did explain that I will be able to come in for the Tuesday session from the start of May, because it falls at good times for trains and I can miss about an hour of Duke of Edinburgh to revise a past module. I might attend the general study clinic over a Wednesday lunch leading into the exams, just to make sure I can do it all! Then, rather shockingly, he asked me about the trip to Nottingham; I was puzzled by this, because I’d explained to him that due to a lack of support I’d be unable to go. But, then, suddenly, an idea lit up!

I looked at my Mum, hinting at her to rapidly move the conversation onto my social skills in class, and support staff. “Matt makes fantastic contributions” he told her. He didn’t think I needed any support, even when I asked him to think carefully about my interactions with my two close mates. He did ask me about last Thursday’s support worker, because she appeared to be making a lot of notes. I explained in brief terms why, and then followed up with a question about if my behaviour or interaction with the person concerned was any different to how he normally sees me; historically, I can’t cope with what had happened. We agreed that I didn’t need any support; more to the point I was told I should be supporting the support worker!

As we left, and enjoyed some really nice food from the bake sale for Operation Wallacea (yeah, research, not a holiday, of course), my Mum told me that she wasn’t going to wait for my review and was instead going to send an email to the managers at the service provider, explaining her point of view based on the first-hand information she now has. I tried explaining my arguments for being allowed to go to Nottingham, but it was futile, she told me that there was no way even if she wanted to, because it leaves early on Monday morning, and I’m not back with the service provider until Sunday evening. I tried explaining about the lecturers saying I didn’t need support, and how I coped with everything over the weekend (I briefly appraised my Mum without going into any detail). But she wanted to take it small steps at a time; I countered that I’ve been saying I haven’t needed support for 5 months. But then she used the killer, the one truth that ties it all together, she knew there was somebody going that I fancy. I didn’t argue, except for to say I respect this person so much I can’t bring myself to even think of trying anything on! It was worth a shot, and I did have ulterior motives; a chance to talk with somebody for a short while away from college and any form of distraction would be brilliant, and I think very beneficial.

Anyway, I was really happy with the way things went; I only wish that I could have had one of my managers from the service provider there with my Mum! I’m really proud of what I have achieved at college this year, both academically and socially!