“Standing out in a crowd is actually a good thing. Now I ain’t saying stand out like a leprechaun in a bunch of business suits. But do something different. It’s better to actually be different as no one gets through life just acting like everyone else because no one is going to recognise them that way.” – Jake

Jake Holland’s unique sense of humour and authenticity make him a captivating presenter. It’s hard to believe that the very engaging student who addressed the Department of Education last June and then took the stage in front of  300+ people at our I CAN AWETISM 2020 Expo in September was once an extremely reluctant public speaker. Jake Holland has used his involvement in the I CAN Network – as a longtime mentee and now as a trainee mentor – to build his confidence and continue to seize new challenges.

In this brief video interview, Jake explains how he ended up being interviewed by The Age for a national newspaper story, pays tribute to his #1 supporter and shares his secrets for managing stage fright.  Click here or on the image below to watch the video. 

On enjoying his work at Kmart: I got the job back in October. At first, it was all a bit scary. I didn’t want to mess up on the job, but they gave me some training shifts and there was always someone there to help me out. I started out on the floor, folding shirts and making everything look clean and then eventually they decided, “Hey, you’ve got a nice personality – let’s get you on the register”. They gave me a training shift and now it’s my favourite job.

On advice for other young people navigating the workplace: When it comes to work, show up on time, look well dressed ‘cause showing up in casual wear with a Star Wars shirt that says “Employee of the Month”, might get you fired! Do your work to the best of your abilities and always ask for help whenever it’s needed.

On the strengths and challenges of being Autistic: 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 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. 

On what the world should know about Autism:  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 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.


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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