The challenge of independent study in lockdown

Emily Morse, 17, was diagnosed with autism in her early teens and suffers from daily episodes of anxiety and depression. Her diagnosis has given her a deep desire to spread the word and make more people aware of what this disorder means to her and others with autism and how people can help and be less discriminatory.

Emily is studying for A-levels in Psychology, French and German. She also took G.C.S.E level Russian and is now taking it at IB level! This amazing achievement is helped by practising with her Russian science teacher.

Overcoming challenges

Emily has faced numerous challenges, in the school environment she would occasionally have meltdowns that would lead to her being asked to stay home from school the next day.

Emily has also faced severe mental health issues that meant she was signed off from school at the beginning of March, just before her sixth form was forced to close.

Over lockdown she faced the challenge of adapting to a new schedule and doing her school work from home.

During lockdown she has been working incredibly hard in order to make sure all work set has been completed to the highest of standards. Knowing how important mental health is, she has also started a folder with mental health resources that other students can access.

Lisa Beard, Head of Lower Sixth Form, who nominated Emily says “Emily is a lovely girl who does not let her multiple diagnosis get in her way.

“Even on days that she is struggling she will always find a way to help others before admitting her own struggles.”

Picking herself up again

Many younger students at her school describe Emily as a sister figure due to her protectiveness and kindness as well as her good advice and opinion on what to do if things aren’t going so well. Emily’s condition means that she is more resilient than other students, she will get up, dust herself down and try again and again.

Emily has been on the review panel for two studies by Imperial College as well as preparing and co-hosting a webinar about autism and mental health to professionals. Emily has started learning sign language so that she can communicate to more people.

She’s even learned to ride a unicycle as a way of keeping fit during lockdown.

Opening up

Emily feels that her diagnosis and overcoming the challenges of it, have made her grow as a person and feel she can fully accept herself for her differences.

Says Emily, “I see my diagnosis as a superpower as I see things in a different way to other people. It has allowed me to be open and honest about my feelings.”

It was her inability to be open and honest about her feelings that led to her diagnosis; like many girls with autism she had masked her condition by conforming to what she thought was expected of her.

Says Lisa, “Emily’s journey has made many feel emotional as she is such a bright girl with amazing potential and kindness but due to her mental health and autism she struggles to meet these goals and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”