My First Week Of School: Junior Year

This past Tuesday marked the first day of my junior year. After a long, joyous summer, I was excited yet nervous to go back to high school. I was excited to see people who I haven’t seen in a while and to learn new content. I was nervous because I was going to be in a new environment, which from time to time puts me on edge. So after week one, I’d like to give you all an update on how school has been.

On the first day of school, I had so many various emotions swirling around in my head. I was pretty overwhelmed in the morning. My classes are English, Psychology, Spanish, and Peer Tutor for Business Math. Generally, I like my schedule because I love to write, I want to learn more about human behavior and developmental disorders, I can improve my Spanish, and I can tutor in a business-related class. I also use the peer tutoring period as time for my IEP-related services! My school is different from many in that we only have four classes per semester, however, we cover a year’s worth of material in that semester.

I believe that I am a good advocate for myself, especially in an academic setting. I sent this email to my education team (administrators, special educators, and teachers):

Dear Education Team:

Hello, my name is Ethan Hirschberg and I am a junior at (SCHOOL). I am sending this email because all of you are either one of my teachers or admins for this school year. I would like to tell you all a little bit about myself as well as my specific, special needs. I have High Functioning Autism and have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with (CASE MANAGER NAME) as my case manager. I encourage all of you to review my IEP (if you have not already done so) in order to learn more about myself, my special education team, and my accomodations.

Sometimes during class, you may notice me doing a couple of unusual behaviors known as “stims.” Stimming (also known as self-stimulation) is the process of repeating various physical motions or sounds. This is a main characteristic of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. My current “stim” is moving my eyes back and forth, however, I sometimes do other things. When I am doing this, know that I am okay; please do not bring attention to it as all of my “stims” do not disrupt the general learning environment.

In addition, I am a visual learner. Because of this, I sometimes may not take notes during a lecture or presentation. My brain works better when I absorb all of the information first and then take notes at home (assuming you post notes and presentations online)! Regarding my learning style, I also may need more clarification than other neurotypical students regarding content taught during class. I am not trying to be annoying and also try to ask questions when you aren’t busy, however, sometimes I can not tell.

As for my IEP accommodations, I will give a general overview, but please review my IEP for more information. The main two accommodations that I occasionally use are for sensory breaks and extra time on assignments and tests. For breaks, I will occasionally ask to leave the classroom for five minutes. If I do this, I am either overstimulated or stressed out and need to calm myself down. I also may need extra time on assignments and assessments. Because of my Autism, I often need to read things over and over again, which is time consuming and makes homework take much longer. I also have different therapy appointments in the evenings which sometimes leave me with very little time to complete homework. If I do this (very rare), please try to understand. I will get these assignments done as soon as possible.

Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. Thank you all so much and I look forward to a great semester.


Ethan Hirschberg

There has been one main success that I’ve had so far during my first week as a junior. The success most likely seems minor to most neurotypical individuals as they probably do this every day, but to me, this is one of the biggest academic triumphs of my lifetime! Within the first day of school, I got somebody’s phone number! As my dad once told me, I’ve taken the equivalent of college-level courses on social skills. Asking for people’s phone numbers is one thing that I have the most trouble with. Having the courageous thought to not only ask for a phone number, but then to actually (successfully) put that thought into action, is an enormous win in my book.

There has also been one main disappointment during week one. I have still found myself lonely during lunchtime. This has been a struggle ever since the early years of elementary school. I’ve never been a part of a “friend group” and therefore am alone during lunch. I even wrote a portion of this blog post during an extended lunch period! I have a hard time asking to sit with people because I sometimes feel that I’m being too pushy. Nobody ever tells me if I am or not, and I really would appreciate it if people told me. So, I either walk around eating by myself or I go into the computer lab (alone) and research my hyperfocuses and/or write, both of which calm me down. I’m just tired of being alone during lunchtime but feel that I have exhausted all other options.

Even though I know that there will be ups and downs, I’m looking forward to another (hopefully) good school year. It’s going to be my hardest year academically and I wonder if I will be able to put all of my coping strategies to use when I’m stressed. I’m not sure but I’m hoping for the best and will keep you all updated. Now, I have to get back to my homework!!!

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