In October 1992, I started third level education. My first vision of starting in university was an opportunity to start on a fresh slate. I could just as easily have still have been in secondary school, repeating the Leaving Cert, had I failed English, which was my weakest subject. I took the higher-level paper in the exams in June that year, and although I was reasonably happy with the first paper, which consisted of writing an essay, and then reading a passage and answering a few questions on it, I felt I only barely scraped by on the second paper, which consisted of questions on a Shakespearean play, a novel by Jane Austen, and some poetry.
And so from the 10th June to the 20th August, I kept thinking to myself whether or not I did enough to pass the English, should I have taken the Ordinary Level paper (I could have “chickened out” of the Higher Level paper on the last minute before the exam started), because I knew that once I failed English, no matter how good my grades were in my other subjects, I would not be eligible for college, because almost all third-level colleges have, as a prerequisite, a pass in English.
On the morning of the 20th August, the day the Leaving Cert results were posted to the schools that year, a big weight was lifted off my shoulders when I learned that I passed English. Whatever disappointment that existed with not getting an A (85% and over) in Higher Level Maths, was overshadowed by my relief at passing English. And in the end I got more than enough points for the course I wanted in college.
Unlike the majority of my college friends, I was not the one to be found in pubs or nightclubs on Thursday evenings. This would be due to a combination of things, including inability to initiate and continue a conversation, difficulty in listening to what someone is saying when there is a lot of background noise, and also to secondhand tobacco smoke that dominated pubs and nightclubs (until the 29th March 2004, when a total ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces came into effect, and that included pubs, nightclubs and restaurants, which was one of the very few good things that Fianna Fail did between 1997 and 2011).
That was not to say that I never took part in clubs or societies. I did join a few societies in college, in first year only, because in the later years, the subjects demanded a lot more attention and study.
In 1996, I graduated from college. Since then, I applied for jobs, and although I was called for a number of interviews. After the interviews, I either heard nothing back from the companies, or I got letters back, saying that they would not be taking my application further, or words to that effect.
From time to time, I have been pondering on the precise reasons why I spent a few years of my childhood in special school. In July 2001, one of my teachers from there, who is now retired, met up with my parents. She said to them that she believed I may have Asperger’s Syndrome. Soon after I was informed of this, I proceeded to go online to do a search for sites relating to this disorder. Having read a few of the sites, it became clear that many of the characteristics of someone with AS that were mentioned related to me. This not only confirmed what that teacher believed, but it also confirmed my parents’ conviction that I was not full-blown autistic, although the psychologist that made the diagnosis said that I had autistic tendencies.
It seems that the phrase “learn to crawl before learning to walk” is just as important in the literal sense as it is in the metaphorical sense. It is believed that the right half of the brain controls the actions of the left half of the body and vice versa. In addition, the left half of the brain controls mathematics, while the right half controls language skills. When a baby crawls for the first year or so of its life, both halves of its brain are working together, and as a result, both mathematical and language skills are being developed simultaneously. This did not happen with me. I was able to walk when I was 10 months old, and I did not crawl before then. Normally a baby would start to walk at about 11-12 months but would be able to stand up only if he is holding on to something, and then at about 13-14 months, he will be able to walk around. It appears that there are a few simple exercises that someone who never crawled during babyhood can do, to correct this anomaly. Any confirmation either supporting this or to the contrary, is welcome here.
It was in 2003, that I began to question whether or not it is strictly true that there is no cure for autism or AS. After viewing many websites, I saw a link to a particularly interesting website, which highlighted the possible “causes” of autistic tendencies, and puts forward some measures to reverse the effects of autism and AS. One of the measures put forward was to go on a diet that excludes gluten and casein, and includes, as far as possible, organic foods. It also suggests that toxic metals, including iron, lead, mercury and copper, may also be responsible for triggering or exacerbating autism-spectrum conditions.