I was very nervous when I first attended the school as I had already been let down previously! My upbringing involved a lot of reading and when I was young it was things like the Famous Five and Secret Seven books where they went to boarding school. I think these helped me as I had an idea of what to expect with regards the routine of the school. The staff were all very welcoming and some (not many) are still there now. The first staff members to make an impression on me were: Bim Patel, Bob Iles, Nick Stone and James Tanner. They were the "family" father figures I could relate to in the school and who helped me to settle in and later develop in the school. I wasn't used to the long periods of being away from my family but they were always at the end of the telephone, and we used to sit down at least once a week and write letters home to them.
The staff would take us on trips to various places, encourage us and join us in various activities. Bim Patel and Bob Iles in particular would arrange cricket matches either in the yard, or in the gym. These would normally go on for hours, and there was normally a few comments uttered over the years, one in particular was "you couldnt catch a cold!" Bim used to show off a little because of his cricket coaching and playing background and used to lay a £20 note over the wickets as a challenge to anyone who could bowl him out, I dont believe anyone ever did! There was also fishing trips down at the lake, trips to the cinema, the local park, the swimming baths and other places as ways of broadening our horizons of the world. I feel that there could have been more done to help students with social skills, not just to their peers but to people outside of the school, as this is something I still have trouble with sometimes, and I am 30 next year!
Being a student has helped me because I learnt quite a lot of life skills whilst I was there, the biggest one being empathy. The reason I say this is because not only was I bullied, but there was students at the school who dealt with a lot more difficulties than I did. I dont like the word suffer when its used to describe aspergers (it's something my ex partner did to explain my syndrome) as i dont suffer, i simply live with it, yes some people do suffer with it, but it all depends on if you wish for it to rule you or if you accept you have it but learn how to deal with it. I learnt how to do basic things like share, think about what i am saying, concentrating on my work. Things that most people take for granted.
I left the school in the summer of 2001 and attended college for several years to learn how to repair cars. The first summer i was home I was given a classic mini as my first car, I have since owned a few of these, and am now persuing a change of job back to working on cars and minis in particular. They are more of a hobby than an obsession, though I have been known to rattle on about them! I have a good mix of friends all with different interests, and even though they all know about my aspergers they dont treat me as a freak. Some of them, although they know what it is were a bit stunned when I told them I had it!
Some fond memories I have from the school are fishing, partaking in the hesley challenge in my first year, skiing lessons, sailing lessons- this was something I excelled at and if money allowed is something I would partake in now. Trips to Lymington Bournemouth and Southampton on my own or as a group, games of cricket, kite flying, cycling both onsite and down to Lymington or even random routes in the forest.
The school I mentioned previously, had I gone there, I would have been taught English and History by a teacher called Tina Townsend, she joined Southlands when I was 14 I think, and became my English and History teacher! I was the test bed student for the GCSE English language test which Mrs Townsend put me through. We were both very proud when i achieved my C grade, the only GCSE subject I took and passed, (the other being maths which I didnt excell at as I didnt enjoy it, plus I was never any good at maths!) History lessons were good as with Mrs Townsend we went to various sites and places of interest, which helped us understand the subjects we were learning.
During the last 12 years of living in the "real world" I have had many ups and downs, the downs being the death of both my parents, along with the death of friends and family. On the up side, I have held down several jobs succesfully, gained some good skills and qualifications, made some very good friends, been to some fantastic places and learnt a lot about myself along the way.
I hope this is of some use to you, and I have no objection to being named as the person who wrote this. I am not ashamed of my syndrome, I just haven't told my current employer as they aren't the sort of employer to recruit a special needs person. (it's one of the reasons for my change of career back to the motor trade) the body repair centre I am currently on "probation" with know and are very welcoming and treat me as part of the team.
Regards, Terry Thomas. January 1996 - July 2001 student!