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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 65
Gender: Male
Posts: 29,747
Location: Long Island, New York

21 Jun 2022, 9:14 am

bullied at school and now helps people struggling at university

School was “hell” for Benjamin Morgan-Jones and his wife Lowri. The couple, both 26, struggled with undiagnosed autism, were bullied and didn’t get all the academic support they needed.

Benjamin’s parents were told he had “learning delay” when he was at primary and it was not until the age of 14 that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism. Even then he didn’t get the help he needed and said he didn’t not do as well academically as he was could.

Benjamin, who left school with just two GCSES, re-sat exams at college and went on to get a first class education and childhood studies degree. He hopes schools are more autism aware now, but fears they are not.

He recalls a low point being “happy slapped” on a school trip, with his tormentors filming his reactions as they hit him. That was just one of the many times he was bullied at Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham, he said.

“Autism is a social disability and impacted on relationships with peers. I didn’t develop social skills and was bullied a lot for being different. I got happy slaps, where you are beaten up while it’s recorded. I do feel angry now and feel I was written off at school academically. I ended up basically failing secondary school. I left with two GCSEs and my confidence was at rock bottom.”

He now wants to support other students, especially neuro diverse students, struggling in education. While he was at Wrexham Glyndwr Benjamin started helping other students organise their academic work and has now launched Upgrade, a non-profit social enterprise to “decrease the intelligence and attainment gap at university”.

The former bullying victim has just been awarded £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to support students at Wrexham Glyndwr University under pressure because of lost and missed learning in the pandemic. He also has other private clients from around the UK, including some at top universities.

Benjamin doesn’t tutor students in their academic studies, but shows them how to organise and plan assignments better and spot any gaps.

I do weekly workshops with them online to help them plan their assignments. Organisation and staying on topic is a problem for neuro diverse people.

“Communication can break down which means they don’t get in touch with their lecturers and find university scary. I present as someone a bit like them who can help.“

Benjamin’s wife Lowri, who helps run the enterprise, was also bullied at school and only diagnosed with autism and ADHD last year at the age of 25.

“I had a stammer as a kid and was diagnosed with dyspraxia aged seven. I struggled really badly in school. I was put in special education classes, bullied and told I was stupid by other children.”

The strain of pretending to understand what is expected socially Lowri said she was on the verge of breakdown aged 17 when she left St Joseph’s High in Wrexham.

“I struggled really badly in school and didn’t mix well with other children. I had to mask a lot and people made fun of me. I didn’t know about autism until I met my husband. I saw we shared the same traits so I got in touch with my GP and went to Integrated Autism North Wales.

“It was strange being diagnosed with autism last year, but also a massive relief. I was numb at first. I look back on school with sadness. I feel sad for my young self and all the pressure to be normal.”

Benjamin mentioned how staying on topic is a problem is a problem for autistic people. That is very noticeable on wrong planet. Maybe he can do some workshops for us.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman