“You can do this. You are awesome who you are.”
Kitarna, a 17-year-old mentee in the Goulburn Murray (VIC) region, is changing the way her peers and community view Autism. Surrounded by negative narratives for years, she has rejected the naysayers and instead has embraced herself and those around her with a positive energy that inspires. A defining moment of I CAN’s 2019 Regional Awetism Expo was when Kitarna took to the stage to share her personal I CAN story with authenticity and passion. At the end, a student from another school called out in admiration, “When are you running for Prime Minister?!”
In this brief video interview, Kitarna shares how she developed self acceptance amid such negative messages about Autism, pays tribute to the teacher who made such a difference in her outlook and offers advice to other Autistic young people who also want to say, “Yes, I CAN.” Click here or on the image below to view the video.
More insights from Kitarna:
On how she started to believe in herself: Throughout primary school, there were numerous people who made me feel like I was worthless and that I was just a burden on the system. Unfortunately, when you hear it enough, you start to believe it. My view changed when I opened my eyes and started to look around. We have a teacher at our school who is on the Autism spectrum and she is amazing. I’ve also learnt more about other pretty successful people who are Autistic and I thought “Why not have a go?” This view has opened up so many opportunities for me.
On how to tune out negativity: Don’t listen to those people who don’t believe in you. I’ve grown up around such negative people, and if I had actually believed them, I would be a totally different person. I would have believed that I wasn’t going to have a chance to be anyone. Instead, I’m a fairly confident, successful student.
On her biggest supporters: By far, my greatest support are my parents. My father understands me in a really unique way that not many other people can. My mother goes the extra million miles — not just the extra mile but the extra million miles — for me. She reads books, watches documentaries, questions so many specialists, people on the spectrum and other parents of kids on the spectrum to understand. Having that love and affection makes me feel safe and secure, like I have a net in case I fall off that tight rope.
On the teacher who has made the biggest difference: She is always so loving, caring and kind. She can always understand whatever predicament you’re in and she doesn’t judge. Having her on our side has been such a massive boost. It’s a major thing for us [Autistic students] to have someone who celebrates us.
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.
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.
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