This is me: shining a light on inclusivity

This is me.
Photo by Brooke Cagle from unsplash

Let me introduce myself. I am Connor Lamb, a proud autistic queer. I am a student, I am my child’s parents, I have been broken in the past but then always found a way to rise out of the ashes. I am a songwriter. I started my Student Union’s digital magazine this year and a new charity dedicated to education reform, Schools Matter UK, both during the lockdowns. This is me.

Struggling with mental health issues

I’ve been bullied, harassed and struggled with my mental health behind closed doors. Why do I feel the need to say all this? Because the very second you read the word autistic, you develop prejudices and assumptions of me. You might think that I was incapable of completing GCSEs (I ended up getting the higher grades in English Language and English Literature). You might think that I have no friends, or that the ones I got were out of pity. I can promise you that at university, the friends I’ve got, I made for myself.

Support and inclusivity

I’ve worked my whole life to get to where I am today, but none of this would’ve been possible without the dedication of my mum or the Learning Support Assistants (LSA) and teachers I had throughout my childhood. I want to make the world that my Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) siblings will grow up in a better place, I want to make schools across our region and nation more inclusive to neurodiverse, disabled and queer children, like what I once was.

This is me: primary and secondary School

When I was in primary school, I found that I was different from the neurotypicals within the primary school. However, I was also slightly different from my cohort of fellow autistics in terms of our interests and media habits. If everyone else was Disney XD, I was the Disney Channel; it’s not that my interests were 100% polar opposites, but the differences and my future queerness were very apparent in retrospect.

The support staff in my primary school were amazing, a pattern that would carry on throughout my experience in the Inclusion department in secondary school. Too bad it was towards the end of that time when things went off the rails. I ended up in social purgatory. It wasn’t the cishet neurotypical girls that were the problem; it was the cishet neurotypical boys that seemed to hate me. Not all mind, in retrospect most were just annoying. But one group had it out for me one of their own physically assaulted me while calling me an ableist slur in front of an entire group of people in my year group.

He wasn’t the downfall of my mental health as that happened before he came along.  However, my lowest point was the worst I had felt in my whole life, it was absolute misery behind closed doors. And yet the SEND staff were the embodiment of kindness and care for the children that they worked with. And I had some pretty loyal friends. Apart from the slurs being thrown around like a second language by peers, I was pretty lucky to be where I was.

This is me: what now?

So, in terms of what you can expect from me, I am going to write about what I know and what I’m passionate about. I’m primarily focusing on education, but also disability rights, queer rights and mental health. Disabled and neurodiverse people including myself are ignored by the government, and especially by our region, and so I’m excited to shine a light on those issues.

My current focus is on universities and holding them and the government to account for how they’ve treated students like me this year. I’m also undertaking an exclusive investigation into how accommodation providers have treated students this year, both prior to and after the student rent strikes. Over the summer, I will be writing retrospectives on how primary schools, secondary schools and colleges have been handled by the government, and I hope to interview a few people with first-hand knowledge of the experience.

I hope that you now know a bit more about me and what I stand for. The mission of North East Bylines is to hold the government to account in achieving what they promise to both our region and our nation, and I intend on doing that when it comes to the industries and communities that I’m in. No matter what I write, I can promise you that it’s 100% coming from me, my experiences and nobody else.

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