As part of Autism Acceptance Week 2024, Emily Bulcraig - an autistic fourteen year old from the Highlands - explains her experience of attending school in Scotland.

When I wake up, I just lie in my bed for about half an hour because I don’t want to deal with the day ahead. I’ve got my whole routine I have to do so I don’t want to be late either. If I ever wake up late, I have to do it in a completely different order and have to do multiple things at the same time. I just know from that point it is going to be a bad day.  

If I ever feel overwhelmed, I need to go to guidance or the ASN department, but if they are busy, I won’t have been able to talk my worries through with anyone. Then if I’m stressing about a class and I still need to go to it, I just know it is going to be bad and I sit there the whole time feeling so overwhelmed.  I’m not sure I’m learning anything when I feel like this. If at some point people are saying or doing something that is cruel to me, it makes it even worse.

When I need out, I go to the toilet and may just cry for 10 minutes. It makes me feel even sadder: here I am, crying in the toilet because I feel so lonely.

The school bells are so loud and ring in my ears. Changing classes is overwhelming and all the different teachers have different teaching styles, and you have to remember how to act for all their teaching styles.  

Break time is really nice - food always makes me feel better and it’s nice to have a chat - but too short. I go to the ASN base. I’m just starting to feel a lot better when I have to go to the next class, and it all starts again.  After break I'm always worried about being late to my next class because it’s quite a distance a lot of the time. Lunch is really nice - a lot more time. Period 7 is the worst for me but I’m just waiting to go home.

When I’m walking home, I’m always holding back tears.  I feel a sense of relief that the school day is over. Whenever I get home, I often go straight to my mum and I start crying. Mum will comfort me and speaks to me about the day and will email the school about the problems I have. I feel a lot better after talking to my mum but sometimes I can cry so much that I start to hyperventilate and become more upset about what has happened.  On the times that my day has not been too bad I can still feel upset about the day but can hold myself together.

Or at least that is what used to happen, because it was written a year ago. A lot has changed. I haven’t been to school in a few months now. It’s really hard for me and I rarely leave the house. I feel exhausted a lot of the time but try to do things I enjoy when I have the energy. Although I can’t physically attend school I still want to learn. My mental health is currently stopping me from going in. My school isn’t offering any alternative way to learn or keep up with the rest of the year group.

I am in an online peer support group through NAS, it’s absolutely amazing because there are lots of people older than me who have gone through the same things I’m going through right now. Everyone is so understanding, and people really listen to me and really care about me and really help and give amazing advice. We met up in person in Glasgow and it was absolutely amazing, everyone was so sweet, and it was such a nice experience.

I wrote parts of this article for last year’s World Autism Acceptance Week at school, but it was never read out at school, and nobody heard how I felt. So, I’m glad people can now hear my voice through this article for World Autism Acceptance Week 2024.

You can find out more information on Autism and read resources and information through the following Scottish charities: