Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the first article in which I get to speak in first person. Contrary to popular belief, I know how to use the words “I” and “you.”
I certainly hope this isn’t a boring read after four or five other senior columns- writing this type of article isn’t exactly my cup of ECHO tea- but then again, you paid for this with your hard-earned money dollars. You knew what you were getting into, so you’re stuck with me until you turn the page to read something else. Do as you please, we got your cash. (Don’t actually do that.)
You know the drill at this point; this is where I list off meaningful people and experiences from the last four years. If your class, club, activity or organization isn’t on here, it’s not that I didn’t like being there, it’s just that I didn’t have anything interesting to say. Unless it’s one of the classes I hated, in which case, I hated it. If you’re a close friend and I haven’t mentioned you, I probably have a sappy farewell prepared for you. Be warned.
To the cast of my one act, I’ve only worked with you for a month, but it was an honor doing so. Everyone brought something to the show that I couldn’t have done alone. As of writing, we have yet to perform, but I’m confident you’ll do amazing on May 7, at 7 p.m. in the Black Box. Shameless plug, I know.
While science classes are routinely the ones I perform worst in, I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad science teacher. Marty Walters, Captain Lisa Sylvester, Skylar Garcia, and the now-retired Jeanette Hencken are just a few of the wonderful people educating us in their respective fields, and I appreciated my time with them.
Nurse Rachel Huertas, thanks for assuaging my fears every time I had a speck of dirt on my arm. Heather Koelling, thanks for framing the February and March installments of Willie’s Comic in your room. Betty Roberts, I forgot what I was going to write about you, but you were cool. Kara Siebe, I wish I took Marketing I last year so that I could’ve been in Marketing II, but I’ve realized this might be a career path for me. Improv Club, I wish we could have met more this year, and I hope you’ll keep the group running. Never forget what a nice statue that is.
To my friends in Scholar Bowl, I can now say that I participated in one of “the sports.” Although I was never the best player on the team, I loved being along for the ride, and the few questions I got right gave me the adrenaline rush of a lifetime. Condolences to those lost in the Battle of the Sea Planes.
Adam Conway, thank you for the wonderful two years I spent in your class and the numerous times we talked over the other two years. I’ll always remember the existential experience of watching and re-watching Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” and looping it repeatedly so that the class understood what it felt like for Phil to be trapped in Punxsutawney for a millennium. Someday I’ll change my alarm clock music to “I Got You Babe” in honor of that experience, and then immediately regret doing so.
But enough about you, let’s talk about me- more specifically, about something that’s defined my experience here. For students on the autism spectrum like myself, a regular school day is astronomically more difficult than it is for neurotypical students. For me, much of that difficulty comes down to sensory issues.
While not everyone on the spectrum experiences this, I suffer from heightened hearing that causes everything around me to sound louder than it is; already loud noises such as crowded hallways become even more overwhelming, and quieter noises that other students might not notice, especially the sound of chewing gum, becomes unimaginably painful. When I first arrived at WGHS for Future Leaders, I was overwhelmed by cheering, chanting, and even one student yelling directly into my ear, resulting in me running home crying at the end of a pep rally.
During the classroom sections of Future Leaders, we were asked to list groups of people that felt invisible and write them on a chalkboard. Naturally, I wrote “students with autism” on the board. To my surprise, one of the other students erased what I wrote and replaced it with the word “fish” in an attempt to make a joke that wasn’t funny. I told myself at the time that this wasn’t going to be my high school experience, and I was wrong.
For my entire four-year stay here, I’ve been subjected to more than just noise. I’ve been ignored, mocked, told by teachers that they would do nothing to help, even bullied. When a group of girls approached me twice on the street earlier this year, yelling, “do you want some gum,” and laughing as they drove by, I couldn’t have felt more unwelcome or unsafe at the school.
That’s why I truly appreciate the people who’ve tried to make a difference for me. To Tamara Rodney’s fifth hour African American Literature class, I cannot thank you enough for what you did by adjusting classroom rules to accommodate my sensory issues. Trinity Madison and Charlie Richardson, thank you especially for standing up for me against that one substitute. There’s a community in fifth hour like I’ve never experienced before, and I’m happy to say you all made me feel like I belonged somewhere.
I’d like to extend the same gratitude to Jon Petter’s seventh hour AP Psychology class, which I have to say is my favorite class I’ve taken in my last 15+ years of education. The engaging material, the classmates, the atmosphere, and a teacher with a passion for education (not to mention more puns than I can shake a fist at) are one thing, but this was another class where I felt like I belonged because there was a level of respect for everyone.
While we’ve had our emotional moments here today, I feel as though my column will be the least emotional of the bunch. Part of that is because most of my closest friends left for college already- much like what my fellow seniors are feeling, the emotional goodbyes and fears that they’ll never see these friends again. From experience, I can tell you it’s going to be okay.
I’ve had time to learn that my friends, and I will stay in contact. Sure, it hurts like a Pile Driver to the face at first to be away from them, but in an age of technology, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with people you love. Not everyone stays in touch, but the friends I was most afraid of losing still talk to me every other day.
On the other hand, I’m attending Webster University this fall. I don’t have to say, “You’ll all be in my heart,” because I’ll literally be one block away at any given time. If anyone needs me, I’m sure they can set up a makeshift Bat-Signal to let me know, or alternatively, just contact me like a normal person.
Oh, before I sign off: while I likely won’t pursue journalism, I intend to continue the Electric Retrospective blog with more news, views, and reviews of games. If you’ve enjoyed the last two years of my column, visit https://electricretrospective.wordpress.com/ to follow my future writing.
This is Sean’s third year on the ECHO, having contributed to the site during journalism class in his sophomore year and becoming a columnist and blogger in his junior year. Sean writes Electric Retrospective, a column dedicated to gaming editorials and reviews, as well as a blog also titled Electric Retrospective that posts news stories and reviews every Tuesday.