My name is Jake; I am currently 15 years old and in Year 10. I was diagnosed at around the age of ten. I am interested in many things, such as LEGO, sci-fi, TV, movies, games, comics and even books at times, surprisingly!
I feel that Autism has given me abilities and ideas that a normal brain would not understand. My strengths are my determination and my desire to do things in my own way. But, as every person with Autism would understand, it can also come with great challenges. A person on the spectrum can have amazing talents in one or more areas, but then things that seem simple for everyone else – like attempting to read other people’s emotions or, in my case, learning another language – can be an uphill battle.
I was introduced to the I CAN Network through my school when I was in Year 7, and signed up straightaway. Being a part of I CAN has opened me to experiences and challenges I would not have had otherwise. I have also met many great people on the spectrum who I can share my passions with and who understand me in a way that others can’t.
I’m not really good with inspirational stuff, so I hope that’s not what you are expecting! I am told that I have a unique sense of humour. I am a bit of a joker and like to do things for a laugh, like running around the estate where I live in a leprechaun outfit on St Patrick’s Day. (I am half Irish.) I am also a massive Monty Python fan.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian is the funniest Monty Python film. I like the fact that they just go “all out” with it. I like their impersonations. My whole family enjoys acting out Monty Python skits at home. My parents grew up with Monty Python, and we are always sharing different references. If you need an education on Monty Python, you should start with Holy Grail and then go with Life of Brian.
Just the other day, someone asked me what I thought about the ridiculous myth that Autistic people don’t “get” humour. Autistics are actually very humorous. From my experience, a lot of Autistic kids just tend to have more adult senses of humour, and it usually takes a while for the rest of the world to catch up! Back in Year 8, no one got my jokes because they hadn’t seen Monty Python. So, I told them all to watch the three movies, which they did and all of a sudden, they got every joke I made.
The current school I go to is fantastic and does a lot to help kids with Autism. At secondary school, everyone appreciates my sense of humour much more than they did at primary school. My teachers have adult conversations with me about my humour. The first primary school I went to was terrible! If you did not behave like the other children, you were treated like you were a bad kid and were kicked out of class regularly. The teachers did not understand me at all and made no attempt to integrate kids on the spectrum into the class. I am much happier in secondary school – except for the fact that there’s a lot of homework!
What I’d like the world to know about Autism is that we aren’t freaks; we are just weird in a different way. I don’t have time for people who won’t accept me for who I am. I ignore them. My understanding of Autism has always been positive because my mum is a nurse and explained it to me in a way I could process when I was diagnosed. Mum has always taught me to see my Autism as a gift and not a bad thing.
I CAN has given me the confidence to overcome some of my fears, like public speaking. My mum tells me that I underestimate how much I have achieved with my public speaking. I didn’t like public speaking in the beginning, but now I do. I think the shift happened in Year 9 when I did a speech in my classroom and actually enjoyed it. It was a presentation task on a debating question on “Should we ban animal testing?” I don’t do inspirational speeches well, but it turns out that I am a good debater. I have a natural ability to speak that I didn’t know I had. Everything just takes practice.