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School WAS my priority - that is WHY my attendance was so poor; why its not always 'skiving' - Story time! :-)

“Your attendance is awful; do better or be punished. School should be your priority and yet your attendance is below 40%"

The teacher says, sternly. I’m mortified. My autistic mind tumbling over the injustice of doing wrong, even when I tried my best to be good. My exhausted mind travels back to all my hospital appointments, my therapy days off school & the days I hid in the toilet in agonising pain from illness & disability, apparently ‘skiving’. I Think back to the days I hid in a bush in the school field, because my autism shutdown was too severe for me to even process that class even existed.

To them, my ‘excuses’ don’t matter because the education systems has an ableist view that We can control or change these things- & are choosing not to. So we get punished.

Why do schools still reward children for good attendance? It’s ableist! why do children get punished and shamed for things they cannot control - like a parent who has no support to get them to school on time?

we are told

“School should be a priority”

School should be a priority? Over what? Dying? Living? Thriving? Besides I had time off because school WAS the priority! I needed those days off & they are the ONLY reason I did so well at school. Prioritising these days off made school & progress accessible.

My poor attendance at school is what empowered me to thrive at school - BECAUSE I am Autistic, and that is how my brain best processes information, learning and access my knowledge and capabilities...

I thrived, because we made the school environment suit me - with a lot of 121 support, time out, prompters, scribers,- & you guessed it- a LOT of time off school, to recover my capabilities so that I could actually thrive, learn & be capable.

It wasn’t easy, but we made school learning accessible - because it wasn’t before. Some people need ramps- I need time out to process school, recover capability’s & thrive-amongst other accessibility issues.

I needed time off to make it accessible-BECAUSE school WAS our PRIORITY!

I had at least every Friday off school- prescribed by my Doctor so I could recover lost capabilities, recover from digestive issues caused by school & get therapy.

I’ll always be great full to that doctor for changing my life! Not to mention my amazing Senco & some very understanding & supportive teachers. I missed school a lot, through medical & mental or emotional need.

My ‘poor’ attendance was the only reason I was able to thrive & get a lot more GCSEs than anyone expected of me, because I ‘skived’. I never actually skived-I was justice seeking; I’d never intentionally break the rules. I was TRYING MY BEST to be good- always.

There's something about rewarding children for not being ill, not needing to attend hospital appointments, not having conditions that require time out, not having a home environment where they can’t physically get to school because their parents passed out on the couch & they can’t physically leave the house... This ableism & privilege makes me very sad & very angry.

rewarding children for not being ill, not needing to attend hospital appointments, not having conditions that require time out, not having a abusive home environment... is ableism & privilege.

Like: “well done! You are privileged enough to not be sick or have any mental health issues, disability, abuse or poverty!”

Then there’s people like me who had a 0-40% attendance on a good year, trying our BEST TO BE GOOD. We were punished for existing, where others got gold stars.

We are punished as if it is something we have actively done wrong... as if our disability’s, medical need, mental health or home environment, is remotely within our control. Recently politicians have made the news yet again, discussing the need to get all children in school, with adverts that reek of ableism, misinformation, and ofcourse fear mongering. Imagine a fantasy world where the powers at be get what they want – 100% attendance - Everyone is in school, no matter what, all the time. every child and teen has 100% attendance every term, every year.... Who does this benefit? because its not everyone - in facts its very few, because school is ableist and can be counterproductive with the pressure on children being ableist and ageist even if the child has no issues. This fantasy pushed by careless politicians who deliberately miss the point, are toying with lives, because, getting EVERYONE in School, no matter what is a ploy; it's a chess move, way ahead of the curve, in a ploy to remove the chess king in a totally different game, and it's a ploy that's very dangerous and counterproductive for people like me and all vulnerable children, teens and families.


School rewards full attendance and blames and punishes the kids who cannot attend full time, no matter the reason for the lack of attendance. You could be disabled, have a parent die, traumatised by something, autistic, have a parent who is always passed out on alcohol, or live in poverty where your parents cannot afford bus fayre or uniform or school lunch or school shoes to walk to school, you could be a young carer and responsible for your siblings or parents and cannot leave them that day because who else will keep them alive or safe? Or you could be homeless having escaped domestic violence… You could be any of these… and still be punished like the kids who could have full attendance, but choose not to. Sure they may give you a week or so, but these issues are chronic, they are not sorted in a week or term. Compliance without respecting the root of someones issues and then blaming them, is torture, when you expect everyone to be in school no matter what. That is not fair. Privilege is not a choice.

Then, it comes to the rewards system… how lovely for the kids who were privileged enough to be in school full time. They get school trips and book tokens and praise and are allowed to celebrate their efforts. How wonderful!

As with all reward systems, however, we don’t think enough about those who don’t get the reward and the effect on them.


It’s the kids who find school most difficult and who have the most challenges who struggle to attend – but their efforts when they can or cannot attend should never be minimalised. They grow up to be chronically ashamed and feel like they’re best efforts are not good enough because this ableism is everywhere in society, and it is always attacking you. this is just one example of it rampaging through our communities and destroying our children self esteems and ability to feel capable enough to learn and progress and be happy with themselves and their diversity. So, now its short story time!


Why it’s not always skiving.... Story time of when I was 18 and a uni student: 


“Will I make it to uni, today?”

An average uni day in the Life of ADHD & autism (thread):


Wake up to first alarm.

Too sleepy, too much pain, to make the connection as to why the alarms ringing, so I go back to sleep. 


Wake up to second alarm. 

I should get up... but why? 

‘Uni lecture’ flashes on my phone screen as an alarmed reminder;  I read it, but don’t process  what the words mean. Sleep.


Snooze first alarm again.... 

Snooze second alarm again....


Wake up, to a flurry of panic & throbbing pain as I suddenly realise I have a lecture in an hour & a half. 


Enter Panic station.


Check time.

I have 45 minutes to get ready. That’s fine. 

It least I thought it was...


I was so very wrong. 


Yawn, I feel like I’ve ran a marathon as I check my phone emails for important daily news about lecture, while I wait for the kettle to boil so I can make porridge-one of the steps to my routine.


DING! The kettles ready.

The noise aches within me, sharp, the steam hissing, hot, spiky.

I feel an overload rear it’s ugly head.

Not again...


I Check something in an urgent email flashing on my phone screen & get distracted.

Something about a room change.

I can’t process it right now.

I struggle to understand the language used as I squint at my phone screen, lost in translation as overload bubbles within me, threatening to explode. 



I Forgot the kettle. It’s cold now.

I re boil.

I can’t move on to next step in my routine without completing every step, or else I’ll be wrong & I’ll shutdown-& I NEED to be capable for class today!

I want to do this... & I need to!

 I’m anxiously aware of time melting away, blood anxiously bubbling within my veins like the water now boiling within the kettle.


Am I going to make it?


I’ll be fine, I hastily convince myself.

Stay calm, stay capable, I think.



It’s ready. 


I hear it but don’t make the connection.

Suddenly I process what the sound meant minutes later & I clumsily pour the cooling water into my bowl only to realise I forgot to put the oats in because pain, change & emails.



I start again-this time putting porridge oats in first. I hastily eat breakfast spilling it down myself while I hastily Compose a message to a uni friend to say to walk to uni together . Despite my efforts the message took ages because I agonise over every word and have to explain a lot in 2 lines of text or she won’t bother reading it. It’s awful to have to stick to a text limit, for someone like me who struggles to write less, and who thrives in  writing… a lot (can you tell? I don’t know how you possibly could tell I’m a fan of writing long storys… it’s not like this explanation is relevant and yet needlessly long?! Welcome to my perfection obsessed hyper focused adhd!)


I press send & Check time. No! I have 15 minutes before I need to leave the house?! How?


Oops I just sent my friend that message now I’m going to have to send another message telling her I’m running late & will have to catch a bus.


Why am I like this?

Am I going to make it? Who knows!


Fear flutters in my tummy. You know what this means? The bus... groan.


I don’t have time to walk.

I groan to myself in realisation... not the bus!

I cringe, already dreading the social encounters & protocols necessary to board a bus. 


Damn I got distracted by the prospect of catching a bus.

How did so many minutes tick away from me while I thought about that?!


Hurry up Joely! ‘You’re not going to make it’ the voice in my head taunts


I hastily spray my hair with dry shampoo realising I failed to leave time for a shower & will have to change to my ‘morning uni routine number 2’. I hastily put on some basic make up. Oops I forgot to rub in my hair spray dry shampoo -I have white hair.




Now I’m riddled with cramp & my scalp is tingling with the start of an unpleasant overload surge.


This is why I was meant to shower & not use spray. Sigh.


I was going to make an effort. Try to look nice. Arty. Anything to hide the traumas underneath. But I can’t today & I haven’t the time or the energy. 


I look like I just rolled out of bed, for someone who’s been awake forever!

 I’m definitely late for my bus now as I stare at my clothes,

on my special

“wearing today”

clothes hook that I choose every night ready for the next day,

& I stare, & stare,

& I don’t realise they’re my clothes. 


My mind is far too frazzled to make the connection of what I’m seeing & what that visual confirmation means. 


I get stuck so often like this, just staring, waiting, watching, Wondering.


It’s the change & the searing anxiety coupled together that has caused my executive function to slow & my capabilities to shutdown, I suddenly realise. 


It’s not my fault, it least.

But that understanding doesn’t make it any easier when I’m on a heart thumping deadline like this. 


Suddenly, I realise with a squeak that the clothes are mine

& then I stare at them some more wondering if they’re right for the weather?

It started unexpectedly raining, even though I checked the weather in preparation.


If I change my dress I have to change my shoes, or it won’t work.


Where were the shoes?


Wait-won’t  that outfit be too hot?


Not water proof?

Sensory unfriendly?



Quick change! Oops that dress I wanted to wear isn’t out the wash yet!


Finally dressed, after navigating my clumsy limbs through the wrong clothes holes, & then re dressing myself after discovering my dress was on both inside out & back to front.


Get packed up & ready to head out door.

Thankfully everything I need is in my bag already.


Or so I think


Oh no, I forgot my fresh water bottle which I left in the fridge.

Got it! Okay, ready to go. 


Wait, where did I leave my phone?

Ah, got it. Cool. 


oops, I almost forgot my laptop charger.

Got it. Phew.


Wait where’s my laptop, for that matter? 


And the laptop bag? 


My work headphones? 


Quick find it all & commence ‘leaving the house’ safety protocols!


Walk out my front door, & moments before I shut the door I realise in a flurry of panic that I left my keys inside & I race to catch the door before it slams shut & locks me out.


Am I going to make it? I need to make it. I want to...


 I suddenly realise I forgot to take my meds,

as I’m shoving my keys in my bag & I hunt through my medication cabinet (yes cabinet-medication is something that saves my life on a daily basis-so much medication-so little space!)


Meds taken.

I now have gas from eating & drinking so quickly.


Dysphagia taunts me as I walk, bubbling within my throat, chest pains starting.




Half way down my road & I realise in horror that I’m not wearing shoes

-only slippers with hard soles-

because I never did decide what shoes to wear with this out fit.

I never made the connection to put shoes on with all the panic & anxiety & changes I had to deal with.

No wonder my feet hurt.

Run back breathlessly embarrassed hoping no one noticed.


Find any shoes, no longer caring that they don’t match as I have minutes to spare to catch my bus.

Put shoes on.

Can’t manoeuvre the zip. 


Change shoes in breathless panic.

Wrong foot Joely.

Swap, nearly crying now

 & I sprint to Leave the house.

I’m not going to make it



Did I lock the door?

Run back.


It’s locked.

I need to GO!


Will I make it? I don’t think I will...


I’m ok! 

I Wait for my bus, & Watch as my bus arrives but disaster strikes when I don’t make the connection that’s it’s my bus that I needed.


Instead of making this important connection,

I was wondering why the straight edges of the bus,

were dripping,



my visual hallucinations beginning with the start of my shutdown. 


I watch my bus stop in front of me, & I watch it leave & then I realise in gut wrenching horror.


I Missed my bus because I couldn’t process what the visual information meant in time.

If I’m already this shutdown, what am I going to be like at uni?

Is there even any point in trying to go?


Yes... there has to be.

I must keep trying, I decide as I recover from meltdown. I’ll get kicked off the course if I keep missing class

- or ‘skiving’ as some of the lesser understanding tutors will call it. It’s amazing how much I skive considering I’ve never… skived any uni.


I must get there. I want to & I need to. Why does my mind & body seem to have such contradicting ideas?  

Sensory overload prickles within me.

Colours saturate & objects move & breath,

the roar of traffic screams & I notice how much my shoes hurt,

but I can’t go & change now. I just can’t...


Finally! I Watch as the next bus arrives & I get on it because I’m now panicking that I missed my bus.


I don’t make the connection it’s not my bus. My mind’s too frazzled for that-the brain fog too thick. 


Crying & red in the face, I get off at the next stop in a burnout of panic. Where am I?!


I check the bus stop timetable but can’t make sense of it & I run back to my original bus stop. Blisters taking over my feet now as I limp down the road

-thankfully I can still walk but the familiar jelly feeling is growing & I wonder to myself how much walking time I have left before my shutdown prevents me from walking.


I finally catch my Correct bus & I’m spiralling out of control in sensory mayhem as I sit down.

Someone is staring at me because I’m humming, Stimming, clapping my fingers together rhythmically to try & regain some composure & capabilities.

I no longer have the capacity to care how I seem nor care about people judgements & behaviour towards me.

I can’t process it even if I wanted.


The mask of normalcy I usually would hide behind has been ripped apart.

I’m focussed on stims.

I need to control this or I’m never going to make it to the lecture.


I need to make it! I need to be calm & capable.

I need this. I want this.


But inside I’m paniking.


I’m not going to make it.


& if I do... I’m not going to be capable of anything because this morning has been it’s regular disaster...  


I made it!

I’m at uni!

I’m so relieved but I find myself cornered by friends as I rush past,

nearly knocking into them because my gross motor skills have vanished & I’m unable to make the connection to say sorry as my slow processing grinds to a halt.


I awkwardly stand with them for longer than I should because I can’t get away & can never exit conversations because I have zero social skills other than smiling & nodding. 


finally arrive at my lecture to discover I’m over an hour late.... & there’s a room change.


I collapse in a crying heap on the floor as my entire world tumbles upside down.

I’m not going to make it

I’ll never make it.

I can’t do this anymore...

The tears flow.

I drag myself to a toilet before anyone finds me on the floor & calls an ambulance (you’d be surprised how often this happens! No wonder I spent so much of my life in hospital beds!).

I’m in a panic & try to compose myself.


I redo my make up, now smudged down my face.


My reflection in the mirror is blurred. The straight edges are melting. 

Drip drip drip.

No Joely get a grip.

You’re just hallucinating because you’re over exhausted from the shutdown.

You can do this.

Please do this...

& then my inner demon taunts me again

You’re not going to make it 

& Fresh tears surge out again, & again, & I have to start over.


I hide in the toilet for an hour, not realising time has gone so quick.

I know there’s no point me attending class when I’m so shutdown-it’ll only make things far worse for me & everyone else-Too detrimental to our wellbeing & learning.

So I stay trying all my mindful techniques to make myself feel better to make me capable of attending the next class.

But I’m too exhausted- barely conscious.

Nothing helps & I’m spiralling out of control.


My alarm goes off & in my shutdown chaos I don’t realise or make the connection that it’s signalling my next uni lecture which I had intended to be better for, & was going to attend.


I realise minutes later after hearing my alarm & I stumble to stand. 


I have to do this-I want to-but have I any choice?


KEEP TRYING I think, desperate


i run on weak jelly like legs, to my next scheduled lecture

-I’m late but I don’t care-

I’m too relieved I made it at all, that I leap into the theatre & appear to ignore my professors understandable comments about my lateness.

I seemed so rude but the reality is that I barely even realised he said anything-didn’t process any other information apart from “I made it! I did good!”

There was no room for anything else to be processed. 


It was a bad idea, coming here- I realise,

as I sit, far too late,

as pain & overloads burn my skin & attack my ears.

Eyes squeezed shut,

I sit through a tiny portion of the lecture,

completely lost in my own head,

suddenly spinning with vertigo from pain & sickness.

I start to feel like I’m losing consciousness & I stumble to stand up to stagger to the toilet.


There are voices calling out to me as I shove the door open,

but they sound far away, distant,

like they’re shouting at a different me... a different person,

yelling from a different world.


I’m not me anymore.

I’m an alien.

And then I’m sick, the moment I open the door.


That’s it.

How can I come back from this sensory exhausting disaster so far? 


If I want to do uni tomorrow I need to start getting better-now. 


I’m not going to make it-but I want to.

I need too.



But I can’t; if I stay.

Today’s a lost cause,

I realised it an hour ago as I cried in the toilets but I kept fighting to stay in control, desperate to try & do uni.


I have to face reality though- If I go-NOW-I have a fighting chance at surviving tomorrow.

I really NEED to do uni tomorrow, & so I make my decision.


So with tearful eyes & a shuddering hand I clumsily ring my mum & beg her,

through slurring words & broken sentences to please, please, please pick me up.

It’s lucky she understands; she’s on her way.

She’ll be an hour.

That’s just enough time for me to stumble the usual 10 minute walk,

to the car park for her to pick me up.

(That’s right-a 10 minute walk takes an hour when I’m this shutdown)


That’s quite enough chaos & pain for one day.


Maybe now I can recover? Make myself capable of uni tomorrow, by resting? There was no point me staying- I couldn’t process anything, learn, cooperate or anything and it would have made my physically unwell that I may end up in hospital at worse-and st best I’d end up missing uni tomorrow. That’s why ‘skiving’ and going home, was actually in everyone’s best interest-but especially my learning because I did want to learn and I did so desperately want to do uni tomorrow.


I am so so tired. Bone tired... I close my eyes nearly falling asleep. 

Time to go

I limp, stumble & fall,

to the car park,

& collapse heavily on the grass while I wait.

Then I lay down as pain takes over, crashing through me.

I’m so utterly exhausted That I don’t get up.

I’m too involved in the texture, the noise, the scent of the grass to move.

Eye lids heavy & an overwhelming sense of peace calms me, as I sink into the grass.


I dream that my aching bones & my shuddering body melt into the soil, & I watch the world change from the roots of a tree.


I wake.




Pain a crashing symphony playing through my bones, muscle & skin.

It reminds me that there’s no escaping the music-I’ll be in SUCH trouble when tutors realised I’ve ‘skived’ again...


I suddenly hear my phone, & miss the call as I stare in confusion.

Not processing what I see or hear.

eventually, on the 3rd separate ring, I make the connection mums ringing me & that this information means I need to answer. 


On the fifth separate phone call  I find the strength & capability to answer,

uselessly jabbing my phone with shuddering, cramped, weak, numb fingers.


I croak, undecipherable in greeting, unable to talk anymore,

& the phone drops from my hands.


I stumble into her car, the capability to walk nearly completely vanished that she needs to assist me.

I’m so thankful & so bone numbingly exhausted, that all I can manage is a stuttering syllable & a half smile.


I look at the time on the car dashboard, too exhausted & so shutdown that it takes minutes of staring at the numbers before I process what they mean.

(Teachers used to think I couldn’t tell the time

-I could-easily in fact-

but it took a while to process information through overloads & shutdowns.)


I suddenly read the time & guilt washes over me.

it’s almost midday & I haven’t done anything at all constructive & I’ve managed to depleat my capabilities & exhaust myself too much to be capable anymore.


I’ve failed. 

Again... how is it this keeps happening? 


I’m not going to make it tomorrow... I can’t do this anymore... can I? 


I need to do this.

But I can’t.

It’s not a choice.

It’s a trap, a trap I can’t escape but wish I could


Only time will tell if I’ll make it next time-

 I guess I’ll never truly know, with my capabilities & functioning changing drastically from hour to hour.


So friends.... This, an example that happens all too often & often to this severity, THIS is why it’s not always ‘skiving’.


This is also why mental health days & shutdown/burnout out recovery days off are SO important!


Being late is not always skiving, laziness or within ones control.


Not attending all classes or work is not the same as not wanting to, laziness or lack of priorities.


In cases like mine, punishment is a hindrance to thriving & instead worsens the cycle-yet in society, lateness or not turning up is almost always seen as skiving or not doing enough to attend.

I wrote this thread to remind us all that this is not always the case- & we deserve support & understanding!


 In this way- this story was all too common for me- a host of unavoidable things that made me late or ‘skive’, that were not my fault.


This story, is also an example of why my tutors ‘stepped up’ & enabled me to thrive.


My tutors chose understanding, & not ableism or punishment; they chose to make it as accessible as possible- & so learning & thriving became possible. 


They chose to allow me to work entirely from home in my second year

-I only had to go in to hand in work a few times that year.

I aced it, all distinctions & merits & glowing praises, which is a far cry from the scraping pass & big fails I was creating without their support.

I’ll forever be grateful for their understanding & support,

it really did help to change my life & made me more enabled to do something that I loved so much!


I am one of many people who started learning when I left school and was able to access my capabilities. I learnt a lot too. In environment that worked for me, I passed 4 diplomas in 4 days, when in school, it would have taken 5 years. Not going to school works for me because I learn in different environments that school cannot provide. School is traumatising, and adults are always saying, 'Don't do that, it reminds me of school' or even 'I thought I was stupid but maybe school just made me feel that way” or “I didn’t know learning could be fun!” or “well, I don’t learn like that, so I never really did the whole school thing… “ Politicians want to work towards having every child in school with 100% attendance.... and I am horrified by the prospect and lack of understanding and compassion...yet again, the ones who cannot, not will not, have full attendance will yet again be punished, except this time, the punishments are going to be more impactful on parents. making vulnerable people so much more vulnerable and also less able to be their best. What exactly improves? Because its not about the children learning. If this was real, and EVERY child was in school full time, with perfect attendance… the sick kids, the unhappy teens, the children going through trauma or emotional turmoil, and the little ones who are still so young they cant quite manage a whole day yet without a nap… how does this benefit them, exactly? They needed the time off for a reason, and clearly are not in a safe space to be able to learn or progress… so if its not about helping kids, why should we be prioritising attendance over everything else? Surely this is where the learning and progress stops and we start actively disabling our children in favour of abliest perfection. What if its not about helping our kids? What if its just another deep rooted issue that society has, that many misunderstand… what if it is just capitalism and its about giving the parents a way to work by providing care for the children. What if it’s about teaching the children to be members of society that doesn’t question authority and is full of self-ableism and doesn’t ask for help (if people wont question or ask for help the government don’t have to do anything to cater to our real needs, we are just told to keep calm and carry on… familiar eh?!)… That’s one root of this obsession with full attendance, if you’re into conspiracy, or indeed, social realism… like me, hehe.  It is not about helping the children or teens, because if it was, they would cater to all learning styles and not be ableist which would involve allowing kids time out to recover capabilities and allow them to learn in ways that are not confined to 4 walls in a classroom. If it were about kids, there would be proof, and each kid would have access to the most ideal learning environment for them. there’s no money for that though, because they don’t want there to be – that’s not the real reason they want kids in school full time.

They’re seeing kids parents unable to work and therefore needing more financial support in benefits. Its all related. They’re seeing kids go to school less and questioning authority more and leaving the 9-5, overtime, office hellscape created for them. now people are working from home and pursuing creative options and thriving outside the box, and it doesn’t make society money as much. Society doesn’t want that, because it threatens the capatalism that makes the economy ‘thrive’ (not that its exactly thriving…hehe). So they make excuses and make lack of access the norm and then blame the kids and the parents for the fall out, complete with propaganda so that everyone else believes it too. Yet, none of that matters to the people in power, whatever the root of their decisions, these decisions will harm children, parents, families and working professionals, making us more vulnerable and in need of support, that outright does not exist. It makes me sad & angry that we are risking our kids education and full potential, all while dressed up as caring for our children.

I’m going to use these emotions.

My anger will make me passionate to try & encourage change at the root- education & peoples misconceptions.

I’ll be taking that sadness & I’ll use it to motivate me, to learn about how I can help & always strive to be grateful, & challenge my own perceptions.


Can you relate to anything in my story time? Let’s chat! Peace x


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