When they tried to make me neurotypical(and not be me)

Competition Nine Shortlisted: When they tried to make me neurotypical (and not be me) by

I’m here again. The room is loud, the light thrums. The lady sits opposite me at the table, 3.2 metres from the left wall, 3.6 metres from the right. I try to remember why I’m here. Mum said to her phone that she was ‘desperate’, something about stamping out behaviours and trying ‘aybeeyay’. I don’t know what that means, only that it’s like extra school, after school. And I’m tired.

‘Hello, Alice.’

Her voice is serrated.

‘Look at me.’

I can’t. It hurts.

‘Can you say your name?’

It’s the same questions, every time. Alice.

‘Say your name.’

Can’t she hear?

I remember to make the sound slide to my mouth, ‘Ayis.’

‘Good girl.’ Her mouth stretches up to her ears, like pink play-doh.

She hands me a red circle with wings. A reward?

‘Sweet,’ she says.

It feels sticky, jagged. I throw it.

Her voice changes, a saw sharpening. Her words tumble, jumble. I want my ear defenders, where are they? I clamp my head in my hands, start to rock, find my space. I hum, block her out.

I slide under the table. There’s a cawing sound. I realise it’s me.


Mum is sitting on my bed, making gulping noises; her face is a soggy tomato. It makes me laugh.

She folds me in her arms; it feels nice. ‘I’m trying to help you.’

I don’t know what she means. But she’s soft, warm. I push my head under her jumper, bounce it off her doughy skin — pungent, familiar.

‘Gently,’ she says.

I let my head go still, my limbs go limp. I allow her kneading fingers to work my scalp.

‘Do you want me to cancel the lessons?’ she says.


She hears me.





Originally a journalist and sub-editor, Sarah Barnett @SarahBooga turned to creative writing in 2017. She’s written plays that have been performed on scratch nights, is having a stab at a novel or two, and has had flashes published by Flashflood 2021, Paragraph Planet and Five Minutes.



Photo – Tanakawho – on flickr.com



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