Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2018 Finalists

What Matters 2018 Finalists

2018 What Matters? TAS Year 5/6 Winner

Get knocked down, step back up


Mount Nelson Primary School


I don’t have many memories from my earlier schools, but the emotions are clear. The false happiness I used to shield myself from the truth I already knew. The horror as my entire week’s work of trying to get someone to notice me, to like me, to get a friend, was washed away by one mistake. The confusion as the people who I thought were my friends laughed at me for a reason I didn’t understand.

As you can probably tell, I am a little different to most people.

I have ADHD and autism. If you don’t know what they are, think of it as living in a different world. Everything is “more”. Lights are brighter. Sounds are louder. Even a silky carpet can seem itchy. I can sometimes see and feel things differently and sometimes don’t understand things other people would.  

Autism is very diverse. For example, some people with autism can’t speak, and yet I am very talkative.  A common trait of autism is a strong interest in a particular subject.  Some people are obsessed by trucks, while I really love Star Wars. 

I find that people often misunderstand and judge me for several reasons related to my ADHD and autism.  For example, when I get a little bit too chatty and start talking about Star Wars at inappropriate times. There have been many cases when I’ve simply forgotten about personal space by standing too close or touching someone else.  I also have trouble recognising social cues and body language and often distract people around me by fidgeting – a lot.  People who don’t understand me can often get really annoyed by these traits and think I’m just a stupid kid.

People with differences are still people, just different, there’s nothing wrong with them. It’s all a matter of perspective. Society needs to change by accepting that not everyone is like you.  We all have our differences. Does that make us bad or disabled? We all need to be more aware of the idea of neurodiversity and also see things from other people’s perspectives.  Neurodiversity means that differences between people with autism and people without are just normal variations between humans, like hair and skin colour.  One is not better than the other – just different.

If my first school, I felt I was treated badly by other people.  They misjudged me, thought I was stupid and didn’t accept my differences.  At the school I’m in now, things are very different. At my new school they listen to ME, they don’t do things for me as thought I’m not a part of it, they value my perspective and involve me in decisions about my learning. An example of this is how my Dad the school and I have worked together to raise awareness about my autism and differences, by having an education session that my Dad and I lead for the class. I feel like I belong here. I’m beginning to make friends and feel much happier. Why? Because of the school. They help me. They support me and other people like me. To people who know me well, I’m just another kid in the class.  I think every school should be like this. 

But it isn’t all bad, I can also see things that people don’t always see. I also have the ability to “hyper focus”, which allows me to concentrate on a subject and ignore almost all external distractions (funny, while I was writing about hyper focus, I couldn’t focus on writing!).  And I’m not helpless either, because I’m doing things to help other people understand me. My dad and I have given a presentation to my class to raise awareness about autism and ADHD.

Looking forward, I would like to find ways to help society understand all people with differences, not just me.

2018 What Matters?Jenna Beck