An Alien in the Playground Josh never understood the games other children played. They didn’t make sense to him. He preferred walking all alone following the lines designed on playgrounds. He started to be seen as a ‘weird boy’ and became quickly a target for school bullies. Year after year while he was increasingly overwhelmed by school rules and sensory overload, the bullying got worse and school became like a living nightmare or in the Josh’s words ‘a full-blown phobia’. With Josh's testimony we gain a precious insight into the world of Asperger’s syndrome discovering how some pupils can struggle at school and consequently suffer from profound emotional distress.
Director: Andy Glynne Voice: Joshua Animation Director: Matthew Morgan Music: Alex Parsons
Transcript I think when I started primary school I think then is when I first noticed that I was really different from everyone else. I found that people would be playing games I just wouldn’t understand why they had this want or desire to do it. And so I just be walking around in the playgrounds on these little lines in my coat just because it was more interesting to me than watching or playing these games of chase and whatever…
I guess the reason why I felt very odd watching all these other people play was because of their body language and their facial expressions suggest to me it didn’t make sense. And so I spent time watching and observing and trying to figure it out; to me it was as obscure as hieroglyphs.
The bullying always carried on and always got worse. At year six I was thinking primary school over, secondary school, new start new people maybe I can do well there, maybe it’s all going to stop it’s all going to be good.
But there I very quickly realized things weren’t going to be good. By the first day I was being bullied. I was often seen as just that very weird boy, who is odd. I had learnt the school rules of by heart. For instance, we had a one way corridor and even if my classroom was just two meters in, I still wouldn’t let myself do that; I’d go all the way around which would take me less than a couple of minutes because I just thought I cannot break this rule.
What I had to do when I met someone was to build up what I like to call an equation for their personality, so I used this equation to build a mask if you like, in which to speak through so that I can interact with this person well. It’s knowing when someone has finished talking and they want you to talk. I’d leave a huge long pause until I was sure that they wanted me to talk, which usually wasn’t until they were giving me a weird look. And only then would I start talking. I’ll be hearing every single pen or pencil scribbling at different times, at different speeds, at different pressures. I’ll be hearing the cars and the buses outside, noticing aeroplanes going past, trains going past, people in the streets what are they talking about, where are they from, what can I tell from this conversation. And I’ll just be having all of this input going into my head.
School became a full blown phobia in a sense. I just could not deal with the emotional impact. I mean I was having nightmares night after night about school and about being bullied and the sad thing is that what was happening in my nightmares was what was going on in real life, so I couldn’t even have any escape in my dreams.