One day during his last year at primary school, Jon Adams drew a picture of a street in Portsmouth, the city where he still lives. The scene he drew had no people in it, but its representation of everything else suggested a talent beyond his years.
The headteacher happened to see the picture, and said he wanted to put it up in the school’s entrance hall. “And that was an honour,” Adams says, “particularly for someone who didn’t think they were any good, because they’d been told they weren’t any good, every day.”
Adams was asked to write his name on the back, an instruction that threw up a choice. He had difficulties with writing, and he knew his class teacher could be cruel. “If I asked for help, I knew what he would say: ‘Oh, he can’t even spell his own name, what rubbish is that?’ So I did it myself.”
The teacher called Adams to the front of the class. “I went up, gave it to him, he held it up in front of the class, and then he tore it up. He said, ‘He’s spelled his name wrong – he’ll never be anything.’”
This happened 45 years ago. In recent years, Adams has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, caused at least partly by that episode, and how long it lived on, not just in his memory, but in his understanding of the world and his place in it. The story says a lot about the inhumanity that was once rife in the British education system; but it also shines light on what it’s like spending a lot of your life being not just misunderstood, but routinely insulted. “Someone telling you you’re no good every day worms its way inside your head,” Adams says. “Inside, you know you’re all right, so there’s this conflict going on.”
Read the rest of this great piece: ‘All my life suddenly made sense’: how it feels to be diagnosed with autism late in life | Society | The Guardian