January 24, 2021
Dear Mr. C,
I am writing because it is my only way I feel comfortable with saying this. As you know I struggle with school a lot. Some reasons are big, some are little. Some are fixable while others are not. I am telling you this because I know you can help. You are my favorite teacher, after all. I am very lucky to have you as my teacher.
Sometimes at school I feel uncomfortable. Some of the reasons are because of other students, the volume of space I am in, and that, honestly, I don’t have any friends (COVID really doesn’t help). I used to have friends. I even once had a best friend, and her name was C. I miss her a lot. So, I always hope I will make new friends. I do but they never last.
I also struggle with school because of my anxiety. A lot of things, especially people, trigger it. I am not going to say who or what, but a lot of the times it’s the students. The way they act sometimes is just not okay to me, or to anyone really. They do things that I am not really comfortable with. They do things like swear or say inappropriate things or just are rude and disrespectful. Sometimes they will say things to me that make me feel anxious or uncomfortable. They say things like “Why are you so quiet? Can you not speak or are you r****ded?” Yes, someone said that to me once, which is really not okay. It is also awful that they would even say that.
They also sometimes judge or accuse me of doing things that I didn’t mean to do. Like one day in gym, we were playing hula hoop catch the flag and I went to tag someone, and I did. And I didn’t mean to touch them where I touched them, it was the only way I could tag them.
Most of the time though they complain that I never do anything in gym. Which I don’t. I used to but this year with COVID I am not as comfortable as I used to be with doing the things that we do in gym. Most of the students don’t even take COVID seriously, at least at school they don’t.
I really wish these things would change, or at least be resolved. Just even a little. My mom always says to me that you don’t always need to change in order to help yourself, the world can change too. I know what the whole world doesn’t revolve around me, but it could help me too. It would also help you because you’d be knowing that you helped someone. It would also take a lot off your plate 🙂 That is all I have to say.
From your student, K.
P.S. Thank you for your time reading this.
This letter provides a raw and honest view of what it is like to be a student with FASD. K experiences challenges with social interaction, stigma, bullying, and anxiety, which impact her ability to connect with her classmates and build lifelong friendships. K’s negative experiences in school were causing her intense anxiety. She was begging and pleading with her mom to be homeschooled rather than going back to her classroom.
Despite the challenges that K is experiencing in school, this letter highlights her strengths. She is a strong self-advocate and a good communicator. She has the skills to speak up for herself – to share her thoughts and feelings and say what is important to her.
This letter had a big impact on K’s situation. Not only did it help her feel better and more empowered to share her story, but her teacher also made changes to improve the classroom environment. Mr. C talked with the class about the impact of name calling and the importance of including everyone. He privately thanked K for her letter and praised her for writing it. He also made steps towards changing K’s learning environment to accommodate some of her challenges with academic performance.
It is important to remember that individuals with FASD are unique. Not every student will have the same challenges as K. However, many students struggle with similar difficulties related to social interaction and mental health challenges. Learning and practicing self-advocacy in their daily lives can help them to recognize their strengths and challenges and make steps towards positive outcomes.