HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – CAITLIN DOWNIE KEMPSON

“You can actually do the things that you want to do. The only person who limits you is yourself.”

Caitlin was one of our first high school mentees way back in 2014, a time when she didn’t believe in her own capabilities and didn’t have links to Autistic role models and peers. Now as an I CAN Mentor for the past five years she has helped many Autistic young people say “I CAN”.

In this video interview, Caitlin shares her journey from a struggling student in high school to someone who made it to university as a mature age student, shares what inspired her to become a mentor and reveals why she’s so proud to be Autistic. Click on the image below to watch Caitlin’s video. 

More insights from Caitlin:

On the importance of Autistic mentors: I think it’s important for Autistic young people to have Autistic mentors because when you make a connection and build a rapport with someone who has similar experiences, it makes you feel less alone. Once I started meeting Autistic role models and peers, it made me feel like I was part of a community and that helped me accept myself more and more. A lot of Autistic people struggle with finding their place in society and having Autistic mentors can help you feel like you belong.

On her best discovery at university: What I’ve discovered at university is that I love to learn. I’ve learnt so many enlightening things through my subjects. When I am exposed to something new or hear something that’s fresh, it makes me excited and happy. My brain starts buzzing. Every time I learn something new, I grow more and more. I used to hate studying but now I really love it!

On facing challenges at university:  I’ve always struggled with literacy and writing. I came to university a bit behind, so I had to do some extra programs at uni to build my skills and confidence. I thought I’d get terrible scores, but when I’m writing about something I’m interested in and when I have real understanding and knowledge of a topic, it turns out I can actually be a very good writer. Maybe it’s my Autism!

On self-proclaimed Autism experts: One of the things that girls and women often face is people questioning our Autism diagnosis. Last year, a much older uni classmate told me that his partner’s cousin was on the spectrum, implying that because of this connection, he really “understood Autism”. When I mentioned that I was on the spectrum, his response was, “Really? Are you sure?!”, and then he went on to explain how “these things” like Autism and ADHD are over-diagnosed. I know it’s not my duty to educate every ignorant person, but I did enjoy setting him straight!

On her post-uni career aspirations: I have a very millennial answer for what I want to do with my degree: I want to help people. I’ve always had a deep passion for supporting others and I love working with young people. I’d love to become some sort of vessel to help young people achieve their dreams and learn how to advocate for themselves.

Caitlin


About Humans on the Autism Spectrum

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.

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