Finding the right educational setting
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By Zachary King

My life has been a never-ending adventure. My autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) was discovered in 1st grade when I had violent outbursts daily, causing me to rage and run out of classrooms and through hallways! It was complete chaos inside my head, and I couldn’t even tell what was wrong. The teachers would not meet my needs, so I was pulled out of school and homeschooled for a year.

When I tried school again in 2nd grade, it was much worse. Not only were they not meeting my needs, they were not patient and they were trying to get me to act like the other kids, which only caused me to rage more. One day, they trapped me in a small classroom with other kids while a teacher guarded the door - an ignorant move in my opinion - and I was forced to wait for an opening. When the teacher thought it was safe, I bolted for the door and got out. Then, the principal got involved. I was restrained once again and my dad retrieved me from the school, this time for good. I was scared. I was not sure if any school would be able to handle me or if I could handle being in school. We went through at least one more school before I found Clare Woods Academy.

Clare Woods helped me hone my social skills very well but it took a while, as my parents divorced just before we found the school. I was 10 at the time. Their separation sent me back into my 1st grade spirals. However, with time, I transferred back into public school in 7th grade, when I was 12. That’s when the teachers finally challenged my hunger and thirst for knowledge and gave me the resources I needed to thrive in the school environment.

Sadly, there was another issue that plagued me: bullying. I was the subject of frequent, random ridicule. I had no idea what I had done wrong to deserve this, and it really started to turn me on myself. I already doubted my self-worth because of my social challenges, mixed with my sensitive heart which made me take insults that much harder. I made it through 7th grade in one piece. But once 8th grade came around, I was forced to relive that torture. Daily, I got bullied about the stupidest things like looks, the ability to feel emotion or arousal - I had become withdrawn and learned to conceal my emotions by this time. I believed the bullies, and I was tearing myself apart with these terrible insults!

When my younger brother’s 10th birthday came, my mom took me, Aidan (the birthday boy), and Connor (my youngest brother) to Chuck E Cheese’s to celebrate. I always was game for that. While we were enjoying ourselves there, all of the torment, both from the bullying at school and my life, rushed into my head. I burst into tears, which almost never happened. “I don’t want to go back! I don’t want to suffer! I’d rather die!” I yelled. I was so adamant about never returning to my school that I called dad and told him. He responded by telling me that since winter break was coming up, if I could get through the last two days, I would not have to go back. I was relieved!

The following Monday, I told all my teachers that I was leaving and they felt bad about it. I would always remember them but that day, I was so shaky and so afraid sharing this decision with them. I was like a fragile egg that could crack at the slightest tap. During 4th period that day, I asked a kid to move so I could get my folder. He insulted me about my sensitivity. THAT was the last straw. I passed myself out of the class and ran straight to the counselor. I was hyperventilating and telling her how much I wanted to kill myself and how I would do it. She called my dad, who proceeded to take me home. I never went back to that school. Then we moved again and I was eligible for high school, as I had homeschooled the latter half of the year.

I decided to give it another shot, and it took me a while to adapt. I made a few close friends but I mostly was invisible during freshman year, due to shyness and fear of being bullied. I had a few bullying things happen that year but not nearly as bad as 8th grade. When I came into sophomore year (my current year), I decided to become more open. I talked to more people and tried to befriend many, to much success. I found that the more friends I gained, the happier I became because of the chance for a new experience with each relationship. I became more open about my past and proceeded to help people cope with their own.

One of the most important things I do in my friendships is offer each friend someone to go to when they are stressed or feeling negative, and it feels wonderful to help. It gives me a wonderful feeling. Then, one day, I noted that I had a bunch of good thoughts that I could use to help others but I did not know how to get them out! My father (also autistic, as are my brothers) suggested that I write them out on paper but I wanted others to see them, so I turned this idea into a Facebook page called “Zaspie”. I began to become an inspiration for teens, adults, friends and strangers alike. I strive to help as many as I can and to increase interaction among visitors to my posts. This helps keep me going! Thank you very much for reading this, and I hope to see many of you on either my page or somewhere out there in the future!  Keep shining, everybody!

About the Author
Zachary King is a 16-year-old on the Autism Spectrum. He is from Illinois and moved around many times, both in location and in and out of school districts that couldn't meet his needs. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 6; opening up an unknown universe for his family, the father of which is Autistic as well, as is the father's father. Throughout many years, facing bullying and social challenges, Zachary has overcome many obstacles with help and support from his family. He has gone on to inspire others with friendship and a Facebook page called "Zaspie", where he posts about many social topics and his own experiences with life, as well as videos.