We’re handing the mic to our resident comedian Carla, who is giving up sweets for the month. Check it out!
“Gosh, where do I start? I guess the beginning. Duh.
I first heard about the I CAN Network in the middle of 2015. It all happened after a miserable break up and a bunch of other shenanigans that made my face turn downwards. It was my first year out of school, and I was still, in a rather hippy like fashion, ‘finding myself’.
It was one of my Auntie’s who told me about I CAN and she thought that I’d love to get involved, so I took the initiative and applied on their website. Taking initiative has always been important to me, because it is a sign of independence. I have always tried to prove to people throughout my adolescence that I am capable of exercising independence, and that I don’t need to be sheltered like a furless puppy in the rain.
So I applied, and then sometime in November I got an email response back from Gabrielle Breheny, who seemed super nice and understanding-even via email! Wow! She basically said she was impressed by my enthusiasm and wanted to have an interview. The best part was that I could undertake the interview in the comfort of my on bedroom… and slippers, because it was done over skype.
This was the first instance where I realised I CAN’s magnificence. It was the first taste I had of their beautifully accommodating nature, which makes people on the spectrum feel accepted and appreciated for being who they are. From the time I was hired, I basically attended workshops nearly every second Wednesday, and waited patiently until we got some more schools on board, so I could start mentoring.
I love what I do now, and what I am a part of. I have had a couple of jobs in my two decades on this Earth, and they haven’t always been pleasant for various reasons. I CAN however is a dream come true. I have accomplished so much, and largely because I am never made to feel bad about myself, and so often am complimented for my apparently unique talents and traits.
I CAN has set me up as an individual, and helped shape my identity. Not only has it allowed me to embrace my Autism more so than I ever have before, but it has even given me the confidence to embrace other parts of my identity that are separate from my Autism. I CAN is truly the best thing that has happened to me.
At present I am expanding my roles at I CAN. I am soon to become a social media officer which may involve monitoring comments on our Facebook page. I also hope to take up more speaking roles. I love giving talks because it’s something I am good at, and I like to make use of the talents that I have. It also gives me a chance to crack a few jokes. I love to entertain.
I have recently been signed on to mentor at three schools, (jackpot!!) and done three total sessions so far. What I want to bring to my sessions, and have tried to do already is fun and validation. I want to make sure I am listening to every kid, and respecting what they have to say. I will never put an answer down, or discipline them severely. I am not their teacher, I am a mentor. I want to build their confidence and let them know that in Autism land they are safe and secure but can still learn how to cope in life.
To me, it is important that the young Aspies learn how to live, and face reality, but I don’t want to be harsh about teaching that. As mentors we take a different route, and use alternative methods to make a difference. I can say from personal experience that I have copped a lot of negative criticism in my life. It has come from the right place most of the time, but it has impacted my self-esteem quite a bit. I just want to make sure that kids can get a rest from that stuff sometimes, because everyone loves to hear something good about themselves. It brightens your day.
Before I conclude this rant-case of a letter, I want to summarise with a few traits that I have acquired through the I CAN Network. I have acquired real confidence, and sensibility. I am much less impulsive and chaotic than I was a few months ago. I was prone to severe mood swings, which could influence poor decision making on my part. I used to get really silly on nights out in an effort to fit in, but would instead make a giant fool of myself. This was superficial confidence. I was up for anything, even if it was a serious risk to my wellbeing. The real confidence that I have acquired, is acceptance of myself and the acknowledgement of my difficulties, and the embracing of them as well. I may struggle, but I can deal with those things, and come up with alternative ways to make life easier.
I am so glad to be with I CAN, and so excited to be a part of this revolution in Autism support.
Vive le revolution!” – Carla Burn
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