I’m 18 years old. I love anything sports-related and I like collecting sports stuff, mostly things to do with FIFA and FIFA World Cup. I play cricket and football and am also a fan of soccer, basketball, cricket and football.
Autism to me means that I can really concentrate on stuff that I am very passionate about: for example, I can name every FIFA World Cup first place winner and at some editions of the FIFA World Cup, I can name the top four finalists and many of the winners in events from the Olympic Games editions. I can also name every AFL grand final winner from this century and can do the same with the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, FIBA World Cup and ICC Cricket World Cup. And I can name the capital city of most European countries.
To me, sport is important because if you play team sports, you get to socialise, you feel good doing it and it’s fun. Also you learn how to cope when losing and that can help in your personal life. Sport has helped my Autism because I get to socialise with people around my interest. I would encourage other Autistic students to find a sport that they love because sport brings people of all backgrounds and abilities together. Doing something you love with others who share the same interest is good for anyone.
I admire a lot of sportspeople, particularly those who have experienced hardship and come through the other side. I can relate to that because I’ve overcome stigma and negativity by being willing to have a go at everything that comes my way! If I had to name one player who really inspires me, it’s German soccer player Marco Reus. Marco originally missed out on the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the UEFA Euro in 2016 due to injury. In the FIFA World Cup in 2018 he was Man of the Match in one of the games. In 2019 Marco now gets to captain his club side Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, which is Germany’s First Division.
I admire and feel supported by a lot of people I know in real life, including my family (I get my positivity from my dad), Aquinas College and their Educational Support Staff and mentors from the I CAN Network like Max Williams, Chris Varney and Daniel Munter.
Before I became involved in I CAN, I didn’t really know anything about it and I didn’t even know much about Autism! By going to I CAN sessions, I’ve learnt about my own Autistic strengths and how I should concentrate on those rather than my weaknesses. I’ve been able to see the interests, strengths and weaknesses of other Autistic peers and my mentors and compare them with mine. The I CAN Network is important to me because it is helping to make a world that benefits from embracing Autism and focusing on what Autistics can do.
I think it’s so valuable for Autistic students to educate their peers on Autism, if they’re ready to. People might not know you’re Autistic or what Autism is unless you say something. If you’re not comfortable disclosing that you’re Autistic, I would say that’s all right, too. You should do things when you are ready.
When I disclosed at my school that I was Autistic, things got better. After I went on TV in 2017 in an ABC Lateline segment, I made more friends at school. People wanted to be my friend. I wasn’t scared of disclosing my Autism to my peers because being Autistic doesn’t really bother me. There’s nothing wrong with Autism. In fact, being Autistic makes you unique and special.
One of the biggest reasons to talk about Autism positively is so that Autistic children can grow up feeling good about themselves and so that their peers understand that being Autistic is all right. The more people who hear positive things about Autism when they are young, the better chance we have of building a world that is inclusive.