[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section” _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.7″ header_2_text_color=”#0c71c3″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” animation_style=”slide” hover_enabled=”0″ use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid” text_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_vertical_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_blur_strength=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” link_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_vertical_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_blur_strength=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_vertical_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_blur_strength=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” box_shadow_horizontal_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_vertical_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_blur_tablet=”40px” box_shadow_spread_tablet=”0px” vertical_offset_tablet=”0″ horizontal_offset_tablet=”0″ z_index_tablet=”0″ header_3_text_align=”center” header_3_text_color=”#0c71c3″ header_4_text_color=”#8300e9″]

Siena Castellon is 17 year year old and diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. She is the creator of Neurodiversity Celebration Week and one of our Charity Ambassadors. 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.7″ text_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_vertical_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_blur_strength=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” link_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_vertical_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_blur_strength=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_vertical_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_blur_strength=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” box_shadow_horizontal_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_vertical_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_blur_tablet=”40px” box_shadow_spread_tablet=”0px” vertical_offset_tablet=”0″ horizontal_offset_tablet=”0″ z_index_tablet=”0″]

When I reflect on my lock-down experience one phrase comes to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In many ways, staying at home is the ideal lifestyle for someone who is autistic.

Gone was the societal pressure to be social. Gone was the distress and discomfort caused by sensory overloads; the price we pay for having to engage in a bustling world that is not designed for us.

My home is my sanctuary and safe place. A place where I can control my environment. So, it was not a hardship to have to stay cocooned in my place of comfort and serenity. But staying at home was not without its drawbacks.

Unfortunately, the chaos and havoc caused by the pandemic still managed to seep in. It was impossible to escape from the reality that thousands were dying, that the world I had always known had drastically changed and that uncertainty was becoming our new normal.

Autistic individuals take great comfort in structure and routines. One of the ways I manage my anxiety is by knowing what to expect. I do not handle spontaneity and surprises well, especially when something I have been working towards for several years drastically changes overnight.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”2_5″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”4.4.7″ src=”https://www.annakennedyonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Siena-Castellon-e1591182317578.jpg” vertical_offset_tablet=”0″ horizontal_offset_tablet=”0″ z_index_tablet=”0″ /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”3_5″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.7″ vertical_offset_tablet=”0″ horizontal_offset_tablet=”0″ z_index_tablet=”0″]

When I learned that schools were closing and my A-levels were cancelled I was devastated. The exams that I had worked so hard to prepare for and that would determine my future university would now be determined by measures the government was scrambling to cobble together.

To make matters worse, schools, teachers and students were lift in the dark as to what these measures would be. I worried that as a SEND student I would be left holding the short end of the stick.

Eventually, the government would announce that GCSE’s and A-level grades would be based on teacher assessments and class ranking.

When I heard that A-level grades would be based on teacher assessments, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made the bold move to change colleges in Year 13.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.4.7″ text_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_vertical_length=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” text_text_shadow_blur_strength=”text_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ text_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” link_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_vertical_length=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” link_text_shadow_blur_strength=”link_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ link_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ul_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ul_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ul_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_vertical_length=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” ol_text_shadow_blur_strength=”ol_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ ol_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_vertical_length=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” quote_text_shadow_blur_strength=”quote_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ quote_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_2_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_2_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_3_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_3_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_4_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_4_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_5_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_5_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_horizontal_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_vertical_length_tablet=”0px” header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength=”header_6_text_shadow_style,%91object Object%93″ header_6_text_shadow_blur_strength_tablet=”1px” box_shadow_horizontal_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_vertical_tablet=”0px” box_shadow_blur_tablet=”40px” box_shadow_spread_tablet=”0px” vertical_offset_tablet=”0″ horizontal_offset_tablet=”0″ z_index_tablet=”0″]

At the time, changing colleges seemed like a risky and radical move, but I am now so grateful that I took the plunge. I did so for many reasons, including that the state school I attended in Year 12 informed me that I would not be allowed to take my AS exam in economics (the equivalent of half an A-level), because I was not expected to get an A. 

Luckily, despite it being the eleventh hour,  I was able to find an external exam centre that could also make my exam accommodations. In May 2019, I sat the exam and despite what my school had predicted, I got an A.

It was satisfying to prove my school wrong, but little did I know that months later this AS exam would play a role I could never have envisioned;  the government would use it to calculate my A-level grades.

The fact that I was almost prevented from taking the exam (which will now be used as one factor in determining my A-level grades) makes me worry that other students in my situation may not be as lucky.

My experience has been that when teachers assess work and predict grades, they are more likely to under-mark and underestimate students with special educational needs. I fear that autistic students and students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and/or ADHD will be dis-proportionally disadvantaged by a system that relies on teacher assessments, especially since SEND students are more likely to be misunderstood and to have strained relationships with some of their teachers.

The educational experiences students have had during lock-down have been varied. While some students have had no lessons, others have had daily online lessons and lots of homework.

My new school adapted quickly to teaching online and kept us extremely busy. I spent the first two months of lock-down focusing on my A-levels through a mix of online classes and lots of homework. But at the end of May, my school abruptly ended and from one day to the next I had nothing to do. I graduated from secondary school unceremoniously in a ZOOM call by waving goodbye to my teacher.

Although the cancellation of proms and graduation ceremonies came as a welcome relief (the sensory overload caused by the crowds, lights and noise mean I often avoid these type of gatherings), I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the unclimactic conclusion of such a major milestone in my life.

Now that school is no longer keeping me occupied, I am taking advantage of lock-down and my free time to focus on activities I enjoy that I am usually too busy to indulge in.

I am reading for pleasure, I am learning to cook and bake and I am deep diving into Tudor history. I am also finding that I am doing things I would never have been brave enough to do. For example, I cut 15 cm off my own hair and trimmed my dog’s hair with my dad’s electric razor. I have also focused on safeguarding my mental health.

I have found that the best way to manage my anxiety and take care of my mental health during lock-down is to limit my time on social media and to limit the amount of time I spend reading and watching the news. The ever-changing and often conflicting government advice can be confusing. The constant dark nature of some of the news stories can also be alarming and distressing. Instead, I focus on staying positive and staying in contact with friends through WhatsApp and direct messaging.

Although lock-down is coming to end for many, I intend to stay at home for the foreseeable future. There is still so much uncertainty about what the world will look like post-pandemic. Of particular concern to me are my A-level results and what university life will look like in the Autumn.

Many universities have already announced that they are moving to virtual and online teaching. And so, I find myself considering taking a gap year in the hope that I can re-enter a world that is not too different from the one I left. In the meantime, I want to devote my time and use my maths and physics knowledge to teach girls entering Year 11 who have been disadvantaged by state school closures.

I hope to be able to help them catch up with the school work they have missed and to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM. So, if you want to take me up on my offer, give me a shout on @QLMentoring and I’ll be happy to help.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *