“The only person who should say what I can or cannot do is me.” – Ayesha
Ayesha Carson embodies the I CAN spirit. She’s a former mentee who gained so much from the support and encouragement she received through I CAN that she was motivated to become a mentor herself.
In this video interview, Ayesha shares her experiences and advice on navigating post-school life, highlights the challenges of masking and interpreting unwritten social rules, and explains the importance of self-acceptance and embracing your differences.
More insights from Ayesha:
On the best part of high school: The best part of school was having a routine. And not only was I able to have a routine, I was able to do classes that I chose myself: hands-on activities like art, photography and cooking. At first when I left school, it was hard to adjust to not having the routine of going to school every day. That’s why I encourage people to start thinking about a post-school plan before they leave school.
On learning to say “I CAN”: School was not always easy for me, especially since I am also dyslexic, but I did have some wonderful teachers who encouraged me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already preparing for the I CAN Network back then. Whenever someone would tell me that I couldn’t do something, it made me want to show them, Yes, I CAN! The only person who should say what I can and cannot do is me.
On the value of Autistic mentors: My mentors showed me that it was okay to be different. They showed me that I had so many qualities to give to other people. They allowed me to be myself and want to help other people like myself. It makes me feel proud that I can have a positive influence on our mentees, and that drives a lot of my confidence to try new things.
On appreciating her own differences: At first, it was really hard for me to get my mind around the fact that I was not like other people. I wasn’t neurotypical. But meeting other people on the spectrum made me realise that my differences made me unique. They make me who I am and I am able to see the world in a different way.
On the importance of validating messages about Autism: When you hear negative things about Autism your whole life, you start to believe them. The sooner we can hear positive things about ourselves like “That’s okay that you’re different. That makes you awesome!” or “Wow, you totally looked at that in a different way!”, the sooner we will start to believe in ourselves.
At I CAN Network, we believe in the power of storytelling. Since 2016, we have been running an annual campaign called Humans on the Autism Spectrum, through which we celebrate the personal stories and insights of Autistics in our network. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of highlighting many Autistic voices, including young people who are new to our I CAN mentoring programs, those who have been with us for years, mentors, teachers and advocates.
In 2020, we are especially proud to be partnering with the NDIA to deliver Humans on the Autism Spectrum: School Leavers.
From early April to mid-June, we will be showcasing experiences, insights and advice from ten Autistic members of our team who are navigating post-school life, including TAFE, university, the workplace and community. Their stories contain messages that are relevant not only for younger Autistic peers but for anyone wanting to understand Autistic lived experience.
About I CAN Network
We are a proudly Autistic-led and predominantly Autistic-staffed organisation – the largest of our kind in Australia. We deliver group mentoring to thousands of Autistic young people ages 9-20 across the country via school programs, online group mentoring and community events. We share our Autistic insights through personal stories, professional development and consultancy work and offer free webinars worldwide. And we provide paid employment opportunities to dozens of Autistics who help design and deliver our game-changing programs.
Our I CAN team and supporters are driven by a shared vision of creating a world that embraces Autism.
Our vision needs everyone. We invite you to join us – subscribe to our newsletter.