Kayla Sterchow had lots of reasons to celebrate on Thursday when she turned 20.
But she couldn’t get her “traumatic’’ high school years in the Illawarra out of her head.
Bullied by other students and kicked out of seven schools, the University of Canberra student was constantly told by teachers she “wouldn’t get anywhere in life’’ because of her autism.
‘’All the schools I went to pretty much said to my mum I wouldn’t get anywhere in life.....I’d just end up working at Greenacres or Flagstaff because of my autism – they even said I wouldn’t finish high school,’’ Kayla said.
High school was meant to be a fresh new start for Kayla, who was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy as a baby.
In 2008 surgeons sliced open her brain and ended her extreme epileptic fits.
At the time Kayla told the Mercury: ‘’I'm looking forward to Year 7 because I want to be a leader at…. K-Zone...I’m a lot happier and I make more friends now.’’
But what followed was “horrible years’’.
‘’They didn't understand my autism and treated me horrible. They would suspend me every single day,’’ Kayla said.
‘’They just wouldn't want to deal with me when I got emotional because they didn't know how.
TREAT US RIGHT: Kayla Sterchow, who has high functioning autism and epilepsy believes school students with autism aren't treated right. Picture: Karleen Minney.
‘’One school in particular didn't include me in school activities, didn't let me go on excursions and didn't let me participate in mainstream subjects.
‘’A girl threatened to kill me in front of a teacher and the teacher just stood there and let her run home to her parents.
‘’My life was in danger and they just didn’t care.
‘’It was getting worse and worse and I was getting more depressed by the day.
‘’Dapto High School was the only school that really treated me well because they had an autism support unit.’’
Kayla is now doing a Communications in Media and Public Affairs degree to help people on the autism spectrum.
‘’All my friends who have autism aren’t like me. They are afraid to come out and say they have autism because they don’t want to be stigmatised,’’ she said.
‘’I want people to be more understanding of people on the spectrum. We are not that different to everyone else.’’
On Friday a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the education of students with a disability or special needs will be held in Shellharbour.