I’m 17 years old and proud to be Autistic. I enjoy playing computer games and hanging out with my friends. I eventually want to open a gaming store.
I am currently studying to complete Year 12 VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning). I am also training to be a volunteer firefighter with the CFA (Country Fire Authority). I have completed two seasons with the Urban Junior Fire Fighters competitions in the junior section and am looking forward to moving up to the senior section next season. I was previously involved with Scouts as well. Along with all of that, I am a trainee mentor with the I CAN Network, after having been a mentee at my school.
It’s really important to see Autism in a positive way because Autism is actually an amazing thing. Autistic people add so much to the community and we all have strengths. My Autism helps me concentrate on information better and recognise patterns and details that most other people don’t see. I pick up on things more easily in Maths all the time! I am also a hands-on learner. When I have a chance to get actively engaged in something, I am that much quicker.
Being involved in I CAN has changed the way I view Autism. It’s no longer something to be frightened of or something that I feel like I need to keep secret. Early on, I used to think of Autism as not a good thing. But now I think of it as a gift. Autism gives you a different perspective on life. That’s what I wish I could go back and tell my ten-year-old self. As a trainee mentor, I now have the chance to help the younger generation understand that Autism is not a scary thing and I can encourage them to identify their own strengths that come from being Autistic.
I CAN gives Autism a friendly name and helps people develop confidence and pride in being Autistic. For me, I’ve gained an appreciation of why I do certain things and I’ve also realised that I am not alone. There are so many Autistic people who can relate to my experiences, and when we share the things each of us has been through, we can support each other. Through I CAN, I’ve gained confidence in speaking out about Autism to the wider community.
Unlike many people, I haven’t been in a position of being told that I can’t do something because of my Autism. My parents have always said I might need to do things slightly differently to get to the final outcome, but there isn’t anything stopping me other than myself. I’m lucky to have that sort of encouragement. In addition to my parents, my “personal I CAN Network” includes my good friends and two teachers at school, Sue and Jane, who have been really helpful over the years. Sue has been with me since primary school; she was the first person who saw me as I am. Jane has supported me since Year 7. Everyone deserves to have people who believe in them and give them strength to try new things.
I believe schools and the broader community are slowly becoming more inclusive of Autism, but we still have work to do. We need more people to talk about Autism in a positive way so that Autistics feel a part of the community and not ashamed of who we are or easy targets for bullies. If you are reading my story, there are lots of ways you can help an Autistic person feel proud of who they are. You can share something positive about Autism. You can even share my story! Or just give a helping hand. A world that truly embraces Autism would be a more welcoming place to live in – and a much livelier one, too!