Ruth's Diary


It's a funny life when you have a speech or learning disability of some sort. I have Semantic Pragmatic Disorder, or minor Autism in simple perspective. My entire Primary School involved the Language Base. Holly Class, as it was known in Muschamp Infants, was the first one I entered when I started school for the first time. In Year 1, I was allowed to spend some time in a 'normal' class, called Chestnut Class. (Holly Class was the school's smallest class despite having children from all 3 years.) Oh, fun fact: this was the year I first met June.

In Year 2, or Oak Class (all the Infants School classes were named after trees: Holly, Willow, Sycamore, Poplar, Chestnut, Oak and Ash-yes I do remember all of them. I rule), I felt like that was the class I registered with every morning and visits to Holly Class became more unusual, or less common. I'm not exactly sure how often I went.

In Year 3, the first year of Muschamp Junior (this time the classes were named after counties: Surrey, Glamorgan, Devon, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Norfolk and I was in Somerset with the tomboyish Mrs Jane Spiers. I can't remember the name of the Language Base class though), I found that there was no separately operating language class. Instead there were just sessions each week which either focussed on a different aspect of communication or gave help in learning to those children who needed it (I was never in one of those). And sometimes we baked something :). (Scones...yum)

In contrast to Year 6 when I only spent Monday afternoons with the Language Base. (Nathan was in the last ever Year 2 Leaver's Play of Muschamp Infants because that year the Infants and Junior schools joined to become a Primary School. Made sense since the two buildings were(are) right next to each other. The class names became named after famous historical figures. I can't possibly name them all because I never properly learned the names of the KS1 classes. I was in Barnardo, Frank and...uh, I can't remember my class name from Y6. Other names I remember are Nightingale, Milne, Elgar (the only KS1 class I knew properly), Churchill, Rosetti and Shelley-the Language Base class.)

Wallington Girls was the first school I went to without a specialist language unit. What happened here was that the Head of Year arranged short meetings with me at least once a week to develop my academic skills, social skills and any other problems I might come across. They weren't exactly subjects I liked talking about and I found the meetings horribly annoying (they happened during break time). It was during High School I became much more adament to not be treated differently from anyone else 'cos I was better aware of what could isolate me yet didn't. Surely this was reason enough to leave me alone? When I was offered the choice to either continue these meetings or stop them in Sixth Form, I stuffed them.

In any employment or Uni or other application I've filled out since I was 16 I've left the disabilities/special needs box blank. Why should I be treated differently when there's no need to be? How on Earth does my disorder affect me now? I sometimes can't tell if someone's joking, especially if I don't know them too well. Ooh, that's really going to impede me in the workplace.

I still have one lingering curse from my past: that f*****g research done by Manchester University. To study the effects of the available special needs services for children they, back in 1994, picked a large number of special needs 7-years-olds (with the permission of their parents) and I was unfortunately one of them. Not that I minded when I was 7. Every few years or so a member of the research team visited me, asked a bunch of questions and then made me do some puzzles. I liked puzzles. But when I was 14 and 16 I whizzed through them 'cos they were so bloody easy. The member even said I was the fastest one of the teenagers she'd visited. I was clearly smart and independent. When, at 16, I was told to expect such a visit again I really did grumble. I didn't want to do it. I only went through it 'cos I was told that would be the last time I would be bothered. That made me happy. But NO! They decided to continue the research on us as maturing adults. Being old enough, I was sent a letter asking if I'd like to continue participating. I was going to say no but Mum put on the saddest face, making me feel bad because they needed to do the research so that facilities and educational boards could be better advised on what to do with kids-whose-brains-don't-work-properly and whatnot. She could've gotten on her knees-not that Mum would ever do that since she finds kneeling uncomfortable. I caved in.

So now they send all of us a newsletter every year, as if we're all part of some exclusive club and care what all of us get up to in our lives (as if). And at random moments they phone us for short Q&A sessions. One such incident happened earlier. I was on the train, going home from June's, when my mobile rang (one of the rare moments I leave it on for a while). A friendly voice came over the phone introducing herself as Emma Knox from the University of Manchester and immediately I wanted to shout to leave me alone. For the simple sake of politeness I let her do her thing; her key questions were about my A Level grades and how I felt my High School provided certain things for me or what interest it had in me, as if I was some kind of helpless nymph or possibly socially inept! I wondered if I should explain I was independent and my school wasn't the kind of place where people discussed grades and performance, choosing to moan about bad teaching instead. I just couldn't be arsed. And I clenched my teeth when she wished me best of luck with my degree as if getting into University was truly astonishing and I needed all the sappy encouragement I needed 'cos I'm just that helpless (actually she was just being friendly and genuinely wishing me the best of luck in my studies-this is my interpretation here, so just roll with it).


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