Today’s article comes from an interview I did with Shellique Carby several months ago. She is a remarkable young woman from South Africa who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Here’s her story:
Shellique went to a Special school (called Open Air) in Durban, South Africa at age 7. Prior to this age a Dr. had actually advised that she shouldn’t go to school at all! Following Special school she then went on to mainstream school which was hugely challenging (more about this in a minute…) and then she was diagnosed at 18 with Asperger’s. Being diagnosed with Asperger’s really gave her a framework to understand her past as not being just “bad” or stupid” (as she had heard so many times). This diagnosis actually gave her more confidence in itself (which is currently ironic when you think of the changes coming up within the DSM5).
At school Shellique felt very alone and had maybe one friend , was rarely invited to birthday parties and generally avoided by others. She was picked on for being clumsy, naive and gullible. Other children called her “retard” and even spread rumors about her that she had a virus. They would also be physically abusive to her – pulling hair, hitting or tripping her up. At times she would also have a meltdown in response; which would only add to the problems. Such social isolation and rejection inevitably led to her losing confidence and experiencing depression.
Shellique felt that the teachers didn’t help as they would say things like “just walk away” and “we can’t prove what that person did to you” when she tried to tell of her ill treatment. In the end she said that she “became quite as a mouse” and simply tried to avoid situations. On many occasions she just wanted to run away, and she largely stopped expressing emotions.
Shellique said that one of the worst things was the unpredictability of the bullying. She never knew when the next episode of bullying was coming and this led to big anxiety. She also became paranoid and hyper vigilant as to what others were saying. She likens such intense experiences to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As she would often be left with flashbacks where in great details she would replay events in head and obsess about what happened and how to do it differently. And also like other forms of PTSD it actually led to her feeling suicidal.
Even away from school she was treated differently, and was often told by her parents’ friends that her behaviors were socially inappropriate. She gave me an example of when in a church group – she pushed other kids into the pool for fun and was told how inappropriate she was for this. And whilst clearly it wasn’t a great piece of behavior – the lack of understanding by adults around her was clear. Shellique couldn’t wait to leave school for the “light at end of the tunnel”…
She went to study for an Anthropology Degree at Rhodes University and over time began to regain a little confidence and began to slowly become proud of being a little different. But it wasn’t all plain sailing at University; for example when she was struggling they refused to give her extra time to complete papers exams. Then after university she was unemployed for 3 years. Which Shellique puts down to a lack of social skills, mood swings and physical illness over this time. But then things finally picked up…
Shellique got a job as a sub editor for a local community newspaper (South Coast Fever), and the company are fully aware and supportive of her needs as a woman with Asperger’s. Some of her Aspergian traits really help her in her role such as her ability to single mindedly focus on editing tasks, have great attention to detail, and her ability to concentrate for long periods of time. She passed her probation year at the newspaper and now has a full time job there, which she really enjoys. She has also gone on to speak out about bullying at a National Autism Conference in South Africa, has had numerous articles published, and plans to write a book about her experiences and struggles.
I hope that this little flavor of Shellique’s life provides some form of inspiration for you. She has gone through many of the hugely challenging and painful experiences of a child with Asperger’s and managed to come out the other side. She is now a more confident young woman with a promising career in journalism. And I would like the opportunity to thank Shellique for sharing some of her story with me – as I personally found it hugely motivational. And found Shellique to be a fun, warm and engaging young woman.
You can add comments here on the blog for Shellique or find her on Facebook in her own name.
P.S. If you want to listen to my FULL 60 minute interview with Shellique (plus access over $197 worth of FREE Premium Asperger’s Resources to help You and Your Child Now) for just $1 (trial offer) please click the following web link for full details => http://www.parentingaspergerscommunity.com/public/department80.cfm