Author Topic: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)  (Read 773 times)

Jormungand

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These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« on: September 23, 2010, 09:47:45 pm »
I don't think I've ever written a rant topic out of the blue, on a subject that will doubtless seem entirely random to the majority of this post's readers. It's new for me, but I'm also hoping it will be cathartic. For never in my life have I experienced such frustration as I now do; and I'm really not someone who retains frustration like this for as long as I have. So, here goes.

Imagine you are taking a class, listening to the teacher, and jotting down notes, when all of a sudden... the guy next to you starts screaming uncontrollably. A support person arrives, doing his best to ease the person's frustration, but to no avail. In between fits of screaming and crying, there is whining, unintelligible vocalizations, slamming of body parts against the desk or chair in which the person sits, and laying down on the floor while the support person tries to get him to sit back in his chair. And while all that was happening, the teacher kept talking, so, sorry, you just missed several minutes of notes.

Now imagine you're 8 years old, possess a matching intellect and attention span, have sharper hearing, and have just been asked by the teacher to please read a book quietly at your desk for the next fifteen minutes. And right next to you sits a nonverbal child with severe autism. And he's about to have a fit...

Now, usually, what we tend to see in the media are clips and articles and soundbytes about "inspirational" young people who, despite their disabilities, overcome some arbitrary task set before them. Or, if we're studying at the university level, perhaps we are learning about autistic individuals with severe emotional problems, who might act out violently or demonstrate self-injurious behavior. Every now and then we might see an individual who seems entirely catatonic. All are issues encountered by those working with the ASD (Autistism spectrum disorders) population, and all are truthful. However, rarely do they tell the whole story. Because how often have you seen or read media about ASD in the regular classroom?

Ever heard of an 'inclusion model'? An inclusion model in public education is the idea that all children, regardless of their specific handicap, have the right to be in a classroom setting in the school they attend, and that adequate support must be provided. Seems noble, right? After all, why shouldn't a disabled child have a right to the same education as their nondisabled peers?

Unfortunately, no one thought it prudent to really look at inclusion before hailing it as God's gift to special education. I can think of dozens of kids who can and do benefit from inclusion, and for them and their families it's a wonderful model that unquestionably helps otherwise unsocialized children to build that base and develop interpersonal skills that will brighten their futures a thousandfold. But for every dozen of them, there's at least one case where not only does the child not benefit from inclusion in the classroom, but their presence therein actually penalizes their peers and damages their peers' education.

Certain individuals with ASD could be aptly described as communicably vacuous. They don't perceive emotions of their peers; or can't verbalize their frustrations; or can't communicate in a consistently decodable way. Anything sent their way as input is either not processed at all or, perhaps worse, reformatted into something negative or unpredictable as output. Almost like a broken machine. The problem is magnified at younger ages, where individuals even in kindergarten are already irrecoverably behind their peers in social and cognitive function.

Naturally, I'm not suggesting that these individuals are somehow evil. But is the classroom really the right place for them? Please see each case below, all of which briefly document real (anonymized) children in the K-5 range, and judge for yourself. They all attend different schools, and I have worked with each in the past. Remember that children like those below are the kind of kids that are in K-5 classrooms right now, and likely will be for years to come. Perhaps when your children or future children are of school age.

Case A is in first grade. A is severely autistic and nonverbal. A spends most of the day in the classroom, with scheduled sensory breaks and therapies. A attends all specials (art, gym, music, computers) with A's class. A does not seem to have any academic inclination; A only occasionally will correctly identify colors during trials, and this accomplishment is not consistent. A is not unable to recognize even a few letters from the beginning of the alphabet after repeated learning sessions. A cannot write A's name, nor can A trace writing that is generated for A. A can only scribble when given the opportunity to freely draw. When A becomes overstimulated, A enters a phase of loudly singing. This singing could last for a few seconds, or could last longer than an hour. The singing is clearly audible throughout the classroom. If agitated, A may cry loudly. A also has a habit of banging things on the desk, usually A's knuckles (to the point where they are callused and/or bleeding) or sometimes hard objects that will produce a loud noise. When transitioning to specials, A will frequently "go limp" and will have to be physically helped to stand. This may need to be repeated several times before A will walk. A needs constant supervision, as A will run suddenly, will put anything into A's mouth, will try to take food from others, and will behave in unsafe ways. A has no concept of danger and will dash heedlessly onto play structures, streets, etc. A will obsessively "click" A's jaw for an extended period of time. A may also scratch skin uncontrollably. A must always have an adult escort wherever A goes. This adult will not have the ability to assist other children during academics, snack/lunch times, specials, or at recess since A requires constant monitoring.

Case B is in first grade. When on medication, B is surprisingly functional. When B is not on medication, B becomes an entirely different person. This person seems completely dissociated. B will lay on the floor/ground and roll around despite verbal requests to stop. B will vocalize inappropriately including making threats to peers or saying things like "We're all going to die". Because B's medication is administered at home, it is unpredictable whether B will have a good day or a bad day. On bad days, B will require an adult escort to go somewhere safe (such as a sensory room or, if that is unavailable, the main office) where B will await pick-up by a parent.

Case C is in first grade. Though C possesses adequate language skills given C's disability, C is extremely challenging to engage in regular classroom activities. C prefers always to be secluded and read alone. C has difficulty with transitions, even with extensive foreshadowing. C is at greatest risk during recess or field trips, where C will go off on C's own in the blink of an eye. C must always have an adult escort wherever C goes. This adult will not have the ability to assist other children during academics, snack/lunch times, specials, or at recess since C requires constant monitoring.

Case D is in second grade. D is severely autistic and mostly nonverbal. Like Case A, D spends most of D's time with the class with scheduled sensory breaks and therapies. D communicates with a set of short, general-use words. D will occasionally use broken sign language in an attempt to communicate. D, when not allowed to do what D wants, will scream at the top of D's lungs at any given moment. Because D may not take interest in something for very long, D requires constant activities in which to occupy D. D's academic ability is pre-kindergarten at best. D is capable of tracing pre-generated text, but without guides cannot produce legible characters. D's fits of screaming may be accompanied by sinking to the floor, pinching or hitting those around him, or throwing objects in close proximity. D will also hit D's own chest and head. D will generally not take "no" for an answer and will continue to scream until D gets what D wants. At recess, D will throw rocks heedless of nearby peers. D must always have an adult escort wherever D goes. This adult will not have the ability to assist other children during academics, snack/lunch times, specials, or at recess since D requires constant monitoring.

Case E is in second grade. E generally demonstrates flat affect. E enjoys talking about E's own interests, but is rarely interested in others' affairs. E wants to have friends, but E is extremely pursuant of said friends--usually to the point of obsession. E will take "ownership" of a friend to the point where, if that friend wants to play with a different peer, E will act out violently in retaliation against the friend. Additionally, E may turn this aggression toward the friend of E's friend, as E may perceive them as a threat to E's friendship. E will have fits of rage including yelling, hitting, kicking, and biting. E is relatively high functioning in terms of academics, and possesses strong writing skills. E's only personal hobby seems to be video/computer games. All of E's self-narratives and writing content tend to be on this subject. During recesses, if E has not secured a friend for the day, E will walk around by E's self and fantasize verbally and physically. Often E will focus on a specific friend, and follow that friend around even if the friend is not interested in playing with E. Because E gets so violent, it is not encouraged to tell E to leave the friend alone (thought this would be the natural instinct of any sane person). Instead, E is to be followed closely so as to prevent any altercations from beginning in the first place. E must always have an adult escort wherever E goes. This adult will not have the ability to assist other children during academics, snack/lunch times, specials, or at recess since E requires constant monitoring.

Case F is in third grade. F has a generally abrasive personality, and will respond to prompts in abrupt phrases often indicating supposed helplessness ("I don't know how", "I can't do it") or frustration ("Don't keep saying that", "I can't take this anymore"). F's manner of speech is, as aforementioned, abrupt and devoid of "normal" inflection. F will vocalize objections loudly during class, and will resist any form of task set before F. F would prefer to draw than to work. F has trouble with all transitions, despite extensive foreshadowing. F will forcefully push and sometimes hit adults and peers. F will swear loudly ("What the hell are you doing?!" "I hate this @#$%ing place!") during class. This is usually directed at peers. F will also call peers names during group activities, usually because F does not understand the point of the activity, and refuses to listen to an explanation of the activity or the rules of the game. F operates at a low level of academics, but is capable of producing correct answers to simple questions if F can be convinced to perform the task. F is obsessed with Star Wars, and will fantasize verbally about Star Wars during class. F will not respond to verbal warnings to be quiet, obviously to the detriment of his peers. F also has a younger sibling who F will be aggressive toward (both verbally and physically). F supposedly responds to consequences administered by F's parent, but the reprimand generally will not remedy undesired behavior the next day at school.

The amount of resources going into these individual cases means severely less support (or none at all) for other children with special needs--including those students who require only moderate support to succeed. These kids will fail. They will fail because they are not special "enough", and must fend for themselves. The spectrum of special needs is extremely variable--some of these kids merely need their attention redirected, a little help getting started, or just an adult to enthusiastically ask them to read to them, and the adult can ask questions along the way. Most of these situations may require only a few minutes--often less--of the adult's time.

Even the "average" students will fail. They will fail because it's literally impossible for them to concentrate on schoolwork. Because they are expected to read quietly while the student next to them screams, cries, and bangs on their desk. Because they are expected to know that they aren't allowed to criticize the wrongful actions of certain individuals, because they have certain needs. Because they are expected to ignore the ever-increasing behaviors of certain individuals, and if they fall behind, it must be their own fault for not concentrating hard enough, not listening to directions, and not acting their age.

And, even those students who are far ahead--they may very well fail too. They will fail because they don't feel safe at school. Because they, of all people, should know better. You can't be critical of certain students, because if you are, they might hurt you. And if they hurt you, it's your fault.

Is anyone here a parent of a K-5 student? Ask your child if they feel safe in their classroom, or if they feel like they can concentrate. Even better, volunteer for a few hours to see for yourself. Know or have relatives who have children in the K-5 age group? Urge them to volunteer sometime to check things out. It's a terrible thing to say, but complaints from parents are the only way to fix this problem. CC Teachers are bound by inclusion to force these children into the classroom; the regular teachers are forced to tolerate it; the principal is bound by their district to not ever expel children with disabilities; and the districts are bound by uninformed lawmakers who haven't set foot in a classroom since they graduated, who believe special education covers a very specific kind of student and that more money is the solution to the problem of adequate support.

Is there a solution? Yes. Inclusion must be treated on a case-by-case basis. Many ASD children will benefit immeasurably from it. Some children will not, and these same children may diminish the quality of education received by their peers. It is these children who, if their goal is to become competent, functioning adults, must receive constant, one on one, intense therapy. They belong in an environment where they can succeed; an environment where their frustrations won't be exacerbated. That may mean at home; that may mean a facility specifically devoted to and equipped for supporting the needs of ASD individuals. It may mean a separate sensory/therapy facility on a school campus.

But never--ever--is the classroom the right place. Because we must not sacrifice the needs of our children, who have tremendous potential, in order to accommodate the needs of a single individual. And every time these certain individuals are placed in the regular classroom, sacrificing their peers is precisely what we're doing.

ZaichikArky

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2010, 03:50:20 am »
tldr.

Just kidding! I hope to read this in more detail soon because I have Aspergers... well I'm pretty sure it manifested as ADD when I was little and still find some things hard these days, but seriously there needs to be some more teacher education about this crap >_<. I had a really hard time in school, especially until 10th grade when depression hit and the ADD stuff was on hold for a while. 

skylark

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2010, 08:10:22 pm »
Preaching to the quior, here. I think I was one of those kids. It's not quite Aspergers, but it's close enough, and I am really having a bad time of it right now. It's bad enough to the point where I don't feel I'll ever be able to land a job interview. What worse was that a lot of late crap in my life could have been avoided if I found out about it much sooner. :(

ZaichikArky

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2010, 07:39:18 am »
Preaching to the quior, here. I think I was one of those kids. It's not quite Aspergers, but it's close enough, and I am really having a bad time of it right now. It's bad enough to the point where I don't feel I'll ever be able to land a job interview. What worse was that a lot of late crap in my life could have been avoided if I found out about it much sooner. :(

Can I ask how old you are? Just curious because my reply will change depending on that.


gatotsu911

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2010, 01:38:29 pm »
I think the idea here basically just boils down to the fundamental problem of special education: state laws attempt to generalize the process by which disabilities, etc. are treated, but this NEVER works as well as assessing each child on a case-by-case basis and determining what they need most. I should know, I ended up on the ass-end of the special education system for reasons that were entirely out of my control and barely explained to me at all. The ideal solution is to determine the individual needs of every child, but let's be honest: that requires a lot of time, money and human resources, and most states don't spend much on special education to begin with. What reasonable compromise could there be - or rather, how would you present this argument to someone with the power to do something about it in a way that would seem feasible to them?

Schala Zeal

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2010, 02:28:03 pm »
Back in grade school I was a bit worse. I'm high functioning autistic but in 7th grade when the teacher held everyone for detention when a prankster didn't fess up, I snapped and almost beat her up in rage had I not been spotted about to swing my fist at her from behind and restrained.

skylark

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2010, 05:56:34 pm »
Preaching to the quior, here. I think I was one of those kids. It's not quite Aspergers, but it's close enough, and I am really having a bad time of it right now. It's bad enough to the point where I don't feel I'll ever be able to land a job interview. What worse was that a lot of late crap in my life could have been avoided if I found out about it much sooner. :(

Can I ask how old you are? Just curious because my reply will change depending on that.



I am 26 right now.

ZaichikArky

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2010, 02:36:46 pm »
*sigh* Alright. Well you are basically around my age, so here is my opinion on the matter.

I'm not sure which of these cases is you, A, B, C, D... but in elementary school I was always the only girl with the ADD. It was more acceptable for the boys to have it, but since I was a girl with it, I kind of was an outcast. My issue was that I really was overly energetic. I think my mom tried her best to get me to release my energy at home, but she had a very traumatic childhood based on neglect from bitch grandma that I have to deal with soon. So I eventually figured out that it was best to try to release my energy at school.  I'm not sure where this fits in, but apparently my dad when he was little was diagnosed in the USSR as being "Lesser Autistic" meaning to them "Not complete retard and able to function in society". It was a struggle at first to get him to function in elementary school, but my grandma, a very talented Jew surgeon figured out how to make him best fit in. So basically I think that's why he's never had any friends and always says to me "friends are over rated." He sees no value in "friendship" and finds all that crap "American bullshit".

I'm not sure what I'd diagnose myself, but I hear that Aspergers can be manifested as ADD and gets confused with it all the time. I didn't really pay attention to who was attention-whoring themselves in school more than me, in elementary school anyway because only certain things would gain amusement from me. Like this one girl's tantrums if she was forced to do something she didn't like... though I imagine that may have had nothing to do with ADD and something to do with... something else. Problems at home maybe?

I was really ADD until about 10th grade. I was really wild and in HS I had lots of fun because I was allowed to release my energy and do lots of things so long as I didn't attract the attention of the security people. There were a few times I did that, and that was mostly to protect friends. One time, I was upset that an asshole threw a rotten apple at us so I threw it as hard as I could at his face. Another time, some friends were getting really upset over a thrown milk carton, so I threw it on the roof before a brawl could happen. It's usually best to let the girl handle that kind of crap, especially if she doesn't have a track record. Her mistakes are forgiven quickly. It may have been better not to throw the apple in front of.... two important security people's faces.... but that's beside the point. I am very protective of people I like. Like... *very* protective. Or sometimes, I just punish dumbass egotism. Whatever, it's the fucking interwebs. If I'm banned, it's not the end of the world, I am happy with my life. I've learned that so many times XD.

I also acknowledge I wasn't perfect because sometimes I sought people weaker than me to bully just because I sometimes got so sick of being bullied. My mom used to beat boys up left and right if they said bad things about her in class. I was jealous I never did this, so sometimes I sought people to bully probably because it thrilled me that I was able to bully people in a weaker "social standing" than me. Eventually I apologized to most of the ones I could find later on.

Anyway, 10th grade is when I like to say I "calmed down" a lot and... suffered through depression off and on until I graduated. I wish that I could have figured out how to stop the depression quicker, but I wasn't able to. My family is highly, highly against medicating mental problems that you can figure out for yourself and it's kind of been a struggle for me to do that, but I try. I always try my best not to fall into some dumb crap. The general thing is that I *need* to sleep or else there is kind of a multiplier effect going on with depression... Last night I downed 3 shots of nyquil. It probably was more like 2.5. I expected to pass out, instead I felt like I was in a scary "DXM trip" one of my best friends talks about. Though for him... apparently it's fun. For me, it felt like some nightmare where my boyfriend was being cruel to me. He said that what happened was not a trip, but was me downing 3 shots of vodka and being an angry drunk. I'm usually a giggly drunk where every little fucking thing is funny as hell, so I appreciated that explanation.

The point of all of this is that my philosophy of life's shit is just this: Always do your best. If you don't want to, some people may think you're a lazy oaf or one of those people who uses their "mental problems" as an excuse for everything. Yes, I know that some conditions are very serious, but for the most part, it's learn to fucking live with things and do the best you can. Just try to do the best you can with the things you consider very important to you. Try not to take things too seriously, especially if it's coworker crap/melodrama, this that, whatever the hell pisses you off with society. You can either do your best, or not... I generally don't mind if people don't take things seriously, but I hate it when genuine/hardworking or otherwise intelligent people are punished because of them.

I am not sure exactly what issues you have with society. One person from high school is really, really into this pyramid scheme (one of the better ones apparently) that he's trying to involve everyone in high school with. Eventually he asked me why I wasn't interested in attending his business meetings, so I had to be the one to explain to him bluntly why. I don't mind being a bitch. I need people to understand why society functions the way it does, or at least everything I have learned through my experiences.

Just try your best to do the best you can. I think I saw some stupid headline on aol the other day. something like "OH medication may not be the answer for ADD/other crap". That one just pissed me off and I'm not bothering to read it. Medication generally isn't the best for anything mental, especially in anyone under teen age. Maybe if you have schizo or some really serious problem, I could understand, but fuck the "I'll medicate my kid so they can try to fit in better and not have as many outbursts in class." You need to raise your child so they understand how they need to behave in school. They need to understand why certain things happen and why they need to behave certain ways in certain situations. Don't like it? Spend tons of money sending your kid to special education (no, not the retards), one of those hippie schools that foster art learning. They tend to do well with a lot of kids.

 If income is a huge problem, then you probably shouldn't have been having so many fucking children. In the American system, there is always a way to better yourself/your families. Especially if you live in a more liberal area. You need to learn how to do this so that your family can succeed.

And that, is all I have to say for now. When the grandma nursing home thing is done, I'll come back to this.

skylark

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2010, 04:51:39 pm »
Like I said earlier, it isn't quite Aspergers. It would be if it weren't for one detail.

I have Avoidant Personality Disorder, apparently with a bit of Schizo thrown in. (At least that's what it says on the doctor's report.) I guess people wouldn't know it though, considering some of my posts here. Maybe it's because I'm at a keyboard...

I don't think there's anyone here who doesn't know my thoughts on politics or religion, but aside from that, I try to avoid conflict like the plague. I have an immense fear of rejection, so much that I usually leave the theater when there's about to be a big argument (lover's arguments especially), cause I usually end up seeing myself on the recieving end every time.

Hell, I think it started with Chrono Trigger actually. I went to Guardia Castle before doing the Rainbow Shell quest. The second King Guardia said that he didn't want to see Marle in his kingdom again (and the all caps font really didn't help either), I turned of my SNES. I've been afraid of doing the second half of the Rainbow Shell quest ever since. :(

And being made fun of constantly throughout school really didn't help my issues at all. High School is when it all started falling apart for me, and I had to get my GED before I flunked any more than I had.

According to the doc, the one thing that prevented my condition from being Aspergers was that fact that despite it all, I still want to have more friends. The thought of being alone, and being too damn afraid to take the risk of making more friends, much less have a girlfriend, it's a wonder I haven't tried to end it all yet.

I'm too over-emotional and hypersensitive to boot. I think this aspect of me had damaged any chances of staying employed at my previous jobs. And let's not get started with job interviews...

I'm trying though. I'm trying to see the best in everything. I think that's really all I can do for right now.

ZaichikArky

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2010, 12:10:38 am »
Avoidant Personality Disorder with Schizo? Yeah, that sounds kind of hard, but it's something you have to work on, even if you get really scared.

The shit really hit the fan when we were getting grandma. I literally had a panic attack on the airplane and it kind of... exacerbated everything. There was a procedure with putting me to sleep, and I slept the rest of the flight with my eyes open, giving me this kind of terrifying dream I'm trying to forget. I am now seeing a shrink, who immediately diagnosed me with Agoraphobia (no, it's not only fear of wide, open, spaces. I am not scared of that, I'm scared of being in crowded areas with lots of people.) I have been slowly dealing with it by going to crowded places and wearing earplugs if I get too stressed out. I have figured out that I'm undergoing a process called "systematic desensitization". So much that somehow neighbors were alerted about my problem and everyone still thinks that I am paranoid and delusional, even my boyfriend and family : (. It's kind of frustrating because they don't realize that people are on edge around me since I was literally crazy for a short while. For example, neighbors have been told to wear certain colors and make lots of distracting noises. For me, it's always been the noises. Most people like some background noise when they sleep. I like silence. I am very sensitive to certain noises and right now loud conversations really stress me out so much that I need to wear earplugs.

It's the little steps that you take. I know you've been dealing with this problem all your life, but you have to make little steps. Life is full of lots of rejections, you're somehow gunna have to work it out. Maybe try seeing a good doctor again? They can help you find ways to improve your life. I'm not sure how to handle the hypersensitivity. I've basically always been the complete opposite. People think that I have too much confidence because I am audacious and always trying to do everything by myself and always meeting and engaging with new, interesting people. I have two friends who basically have not had proper socialization their entire lives. I teach them, but I sometimes give them harsh lessons and that is because really, they need it. They don't understand how "normal" people function and socialize. Since I do, I have to get it through to them so that they are not so depressed all the time and overreact to things that "normal" people find trivial.  I'd probably be a bad friend to you XD;. Do you have any nice friends who are understanding of your problems?

skylark

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2010, 12:41:46 am »
I have a couple of friends online, and only one close friend I've managed to keep in touch with. He and my mom and grandma have been pretty supportive and probably the reason I still have any semblance of sanity left at all. :P

ZaichikArky

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Re: These kids will fail. (public education/autism rant)
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2010, 08:17:36 pm »
Yeah, unfortunately that is not good : (. I'm not quite sure what to tell you. I have two friends like you, and a big part of their problems is that they are just not socialized and do not understand or are unwilling to understand how "normal" people socialize. I'm sure that friend you have is a great friend to you, but it seems like you don't really socialize with any people regularly. If that's the case, I really suggest you try to change that. I don't really understand your condition with Avoidant Personality Disorder, but I understand that the best way to deal with mental problems is to try hard to make your life better. This is what I've dealt with at various stages of my life:

1. ADD
2. Most Likely Aspergers
3. Severe Insomnia
4. Severe Depression
5. Agoraphobia
6. Some kind of anti social type thing... I don't know how to explain it, but I tend not to form social relationships easily. I am a very confident, headstrong person and I am very friendly, but I have issues with people getting to know me and making friends. I have a lot of issues making new friends. it's not shyness, it's some other thing, I guess.
7. Bullying (though this ended around when I was 16)
8. OCD
9. Severe stress and anxiety, inability to deal with stress (this causes the insomnia, which causes a multitude of other problems)

Today I went to the therapist. He's expensive, but very helpful. He likes me because of my candor. I am a very frank person and I hate bullshit. It's the Russian/Jew in me. Maybe you should seek a therapist who is experienced in Avoidant Personality Disorder? I'm not sure if you can afford it. I'm lucky because my parents can, and they understand it's important that I go to him.