Alex Lowery speaks about autism

‘The Games Lesson – a memory from high school’ by Damian Sawyer

Written on 15th Nov 2016 by Alex Lowery

Today we have a piece of descriptive writing by Damian Sawyer. Damian was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in March this year, at the age of 44. This piece is about his experience of games lesson in high school. While I never went to high school (I was home-schooled through that period) I can still relate to a lot of what he says. I remember struggling with games when I was around high school age too, and I remember some of the other kids being reluctant to have me on their team. Anyway, I hope you enjoy Damian’s piece.

Photo of Damian Sawyer

Winter; the bite of frost in the air, burning on my hands and face.  I stand, dejected, as one by one the other boys are picked for teams.  I’m the last, of course, the team captain pulling a face as I tentatively approach the group that has to accept me as a member.  They are in a huddle, sharing some small joke that I am not included in.

The teacher blows the whistle and play starts.  I can’t cope with all the shouting, the frantic, chaotic motion of too many people, the aggression, and yes, open violence.  This games field is a battlefield.  I don’t want to be here, with my fingers and toes going numb and blue in the subzero temperatures.

Worst of all, I don’t know the rules of engagement.  Play stops for something called a ‘scrum.’  The games teacher tuts impatiently at having to explain to me where I need to stand, how we lock arms around shoulders of those beside us.  How we lock heads against the other team and push against them while the ball is thrown somewhere in amongst our feet.  There’s too much happening; just the physical contact is overwhelmingly uncomfortable for me, making me feel as nauseous as if I were on a boat in rough seas.  Studded boots hook the ball backwards and the running/chasing/grabbing resumes.  All the others know and accept this bizarre ritual.  I’m just left bewildered.  I can’t see any reason for it.

At last the ordeal ends, only for another to begin.  The circulation has stopped to several of my fingers, and the hot changing room burns them with a pain that is indelibly linked in my mind with the horror that is rugby.

[About five years later I moved to Cardiff to study Astrophysics.  All three of my children were born there, and they follow the Wales international rugby matches.  My two sons have both enjoyed playing in rugby teams.  I sometimes watch the international matches with my youngest, who is now sixteen.  I find them difficult to watch because of the aggression and noise involved and I’m still mystified by the rules.  This year, roughly three decades after that particular games lesson, I was finally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.]

– Damian Sawyer, November 2016


One thought on “‘The Games Lesson – a memory from high school’ by Damian Sawyer

  1. Ian Cutler says:

    A profoundly moving and well written piece by Damian. I completely identify with his experience. Hope to see more writing by Damian on your site.

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
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