I CAN Story: Mathew Townsend

In this week’s edition of Grapevine, we’re sharing the story of yet another remarkable young person on the spectrum, who overcame the challenges of tertiary education to gain his degree. Take it away, Mathew!

– Max Williams, Editor in Chief


How I overcame my obstacles and challenges to obtain my degree

The first thing I struggled with was having no confidence or acknowledgement of the issues I faced. I felt marginalised.

This inspired me to develop an initiative to speak out to my friends about what communication strategies would be effective when I am present. This has helped them to understand how to communicate with me. I have also done this many times with my lecturers, professors and supervisors.

My relationship with my friends, supervisors and the connections with the general University of Queensland’s community have taught me to be mindful of my presentation and public speaking skills. This adds to my current experience in disability and diversity inclusion awareness. UQ is a very diverse community, and this aspect has enhanced my learnings so much, especially in regards to communication.

What things taught me confidence?

First of all, I thought about what goals I wanted to achieve. Confidence is something to build, taking small steps to get to the point of what you want to achieve. I have refocused myself to think positively about what I want to do, how I want to be heard, and to have the freedom to speak up about the issues I face.

Keep sharing your feelings and experiences with people you know. The more you build networks within your passions and common interests with the people you know, the more they will be aware of your challenges. Take the initiative to display your talents, intelligence and motivation. The more you do this, the more you focus on your positivity, which helps builds your confidence.

How I coped my setbacks

I try to avoid anxiety and depression by keeping myself busy and doing the things I enjoy. Volunteering, working, or just getting out of the house and exploring. In my experience, getting involved in community groups is the biggest influence on my mental attitudes. It has helped me to avoid negativity.

What lessons I learned

I understand that being on the spectrum can mean some communication challenges, especially nonverbally, however this doesn’t stop from me engaging with people I want to talk to.

One thing I learned which had a big impact on me is to step back and not compare myself with other people. This helps me to avoid anxiety and depression by not focussing on the things that I don’t have.

Why we should be part of an inclusive society?

People with disabilities should feel they are included in their society. I want everybody to think about and acknowledge that capabilities are for everybody; because everybody should be able to do what they want to do. Either you have a disability or you do not, but you deserve to equality and fairness either way. In obtaining my degree, I was able to achieve my goal, and I hope you can achieve yours too.

By Mathew Townsend


Follow our movement.