Growing up, I was always under the impression that college was going to be this big, wonderous, inclusive environment for people of all stripes. While Texas State is mostly successful on that part, I feel it- the administration, student body, faculty, etc. -has fallen drastically short of helping students with special needs and disabilities.
I am diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, a social-mental condition that sees a wide range of behaviors throughout one’s lifetime. As a child, because I acted “weird” in class, I had to be moved to a special classroom for other students like me. This is where, despite the teachers’ best intentions, I was essentially shut off from the rest of the world. The “real” world that seemed to be moving along so fast and smug and confidently. Most of my peers and instructors seemed more content to offset the pressures to someone else slightly more qualified, rather than face the issue directly and responsibly.
When I got accepted to, and eventually came to, Texas State University, I had been hoping that my experiences as an independent adult would be buoyed by a supportive campus with plenty of programs to join. I was saddened to find out that the vast majority of students with special needs and disabilities were placed into the laps of a single office on the 5th LBJ floor. The staffers and student helpers do their absolute best, but they seem severely overworked. Just as in previous curriculums, we are virtually handed off to the side to be dealt with later- if ever at all.
Worse still, most administrators, students, and faculty members seem wholly indifferent to these people. One of the biggest issues that children and adults with autism face is that their peers severely misunderstand the way in which the condition works. They’re poorly informed, and sometimes unintentionally offensive. I cannot express how many times someone my age or older has talked down to me in a demeaning manner like I was a helpless child.
Words like “retard” or “retarded” are used so casually in conversations, it has found a way into normality. Those words have been used to hurt me and others like me in the past, and the fact that they’re said regularly is extremely upsetting. I’m utterly sick and tired of having to be the only one in the room who speaks up when these are said aloud, and even more so when my peers look at me like I’m a censorship police.
I write this letter in hopes that people attending the university will stop and listen to these concerns and take them seriously. If Texas State is indeed serious about inclusivity and diversity, then it needs to acknowledge and reckon with a small but vital group of students who often feel left behind.
Freshman, English Major