Monday, 17 September 2012

Diagnosis and Social Class

I frequently wonder if there is or was, certainly in the past, a social class aspect to age of diagnosis, with conditions such as Autism, Asperger's and ADHD. It is my personal belief that there was and possibly still is. I am working-class. I was born and brought up in a solidly working-class family. On my mum's side of the family, my mum's dad worked down the pit as a coal miner as did his father before him. On my Grandmother's side of the family, her father was a coal miner as were two of her brothers before one became a Vicar. My dad has worked as at a Glassworks, foundry worker, welder and Postman. My mum in a water bottle factory, onion factory, done Telephone sales, and a cleaner and dinner lady.

Nothing concrete or no condition was ever suggested of me when I was young, but there were comments on my school reports, which indicated that things were far from fine, from as early as Infant School. Such comments became more frequent during the Secondary School years. The Secondary School I went to, quite frankly, and I will not retract this or apologise for writing it, was a shithole. A cesspit, and a toilet of a place. I hated it with every atom of my being and I hate it even more nowadays, as my experiences, learning and understanding, as I have got older, has made me actually realise how bad it was.

Some of the Teachers weren't very good at teaching or controlling a class. Not all of them can be described as being this, of course, a few were good Teachers and good at their jobs. As well, depending on the Teachers, a good number of lessons were ruined by a minority of shithouses and arseholes. Yes, whoever it was that said your school years or teen years are the happiest days of your life obviously had very narrow experiences of life. The Secondary School I attended quite frankly did not give a shit. They commented on my behaviour and conduct but did nothing about it. Well, I don't feel any guilt or shame for slamming them on here. I don't owe them any thanks or favours. I ignored my former form Teacher delibrately and ostentatiously in June 2005 and I would do the same if we were to meet again, which I hope we don't.

I think that children brought up in middle or upper class families or homes would have been more likely to look or have looked for signs that something is or was missing or not quite right earlier. If I had been born into a middle or upper-class family I might have been sent to a private school, perhaps paid for by my LEA if my parents had looked for signs or the school had been more aware. There are certainly other cases of people who I have read about or known from middle-class backgrounds, whose parents had them educated away, as I have just stated, or got them diagnosed earlier and more support. These parents probably looked for an answer or a reason behind their children's behaviour when it was different or stood out or why something was amiss. Their schools and education system or authorities probably did. Some of these people were only a few years younger than myself, not 30 or 40 years younger.

Further evidence for the social class correlation is that often, children brought up in middle or upper class families or homes will often get diagnosed earlier, as their parents read child development books more, and will look for signs or that something is missing or not quite right earlier.

In the distant past, it was widely believed that both Asperger's Syndrome and Kanner's type of Autism only could occur in white, middle and upper class, academic and professional families. The children who Kanner saw were all from such backgrounds. The reason for this is that middle and upper class parents were likely to have been better educated, more knowledgeable, articulate, assertive, and more pushy. Therefore, they will have taken their child to see a specialist early in life. This probably led to the theory that AS and Autism can only happen in middle and upper class families. They would have been more likely to look for a cause for their child's behaviour than many working-class and poor parents, who would have been more likely to attribute it to bad or disruptive behaviour, and therefore, sanctions and discipline were needed to cure or reduce the problem. The latter probably wouldn't have looked for a solution or reason.

I have read that in the past, a lot of upper and middle class parents tried and pushed for a diagnosis of Dyslexia when their kids weren't up to scratch, rather than face the basic fact that they were a slower learner or not up to it.

Marc Segar, who produced a book called the "Asperger's Syndrome guide to survival" was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism in 1981 when he was seven years old, when his parents took him to see Elizabeth Newson, a specialist in this area. He was middle-class. His diagnosis was later changed to Asperger's Syndrome. Segar was born in April 1974, so he was of my generation. I don't know if he died accidentally in a car crash or if he committed suicide in December 1997 at the age of 23, but if he indeed did commit suicide, the title of his publication is cruelly ironic. After seven years in a special school, Segar was transferred to a special school until he was 14 then he was transferred back to mainstream school until he did his GCSE's and A-levels then went to the University of Manchester to complete a degree in Biochemistry. Something must have been spotted by, A) His parents or B) The mainstream school he attended. Perhaps Segar's school or Local Education Authority were progressive and alert to special needs, but his behaviour can't have been that different from mine.

When I was younger, maybe because I wasn't as disturbed in my behaviour as one or two others, nothing was done. Perhaps because my behaviour didn't include the kind of transgressions or conduct that authority figures zone in on, such as bullying other kids, stealing cars, taking drugs, and setting fire to property.

As well as social class, it seems to me, that it is always those pupils, or parents for that matter, who shout the loudest, who make the most noise and who are the most vociferous who get attention.

I am not running my parents down in any way, shape or form. Both have been great parents overall to myself. However, education and awareness-wise I am in front of them. Both of them failed the 11-plus and left school at 15 without any qualifications. They do not read apart from the newspaper - the Daily Mirror. They did not know the ins and outs of what was the best schools in the area or grades or homework that much. They sent me to the local one and that was that. In contrast, I have read and heard about better educated parents parents conducting research to which is the best schools in the area and sending their children there, whether they live there or not.

Another factor is time for diagnosis age. If I had been born 20 years later.. in 1996.. I would almost certainly had been diagnosed earlier and received more support, but you are born when you are and there is nothing you can do about that. You have control over your life whilst you are in this world, but nobody controls when they come into it, where they come into it or what brings them into it. My life, for good or ill, has gone the way it has.. I can't changed what has gone.. if I was born 50 years earlier in 1926 I might not have been diagnosed at all.

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