“I’m so glad I found the I CAN Network. It’s amazing to find so many people who are as passionate about Autism Acceptance as I am.”
Since I CAN Network launched in 2013, several of our awesome I CAN mentees have gone on to paid employment as I CAN Mentors. Madi Kenna holds the distinction of being the first mentee from our online group mentoring program to do so — as well as being one of our youngest mentors. One of Madi’s key roles is as an Assistant Mentor working with Network Leaders Sam and Christian in the delivery of our online group for Queer Autistic teens.
In this brief video interview, Madi shares how she’s found her place in distance education, the importance of her own personal I CAN Network and what she’s doing to change the narrative on Autism.
On how she paces herself: I step back from the situation. Give myself time to think and process. Having autism, my brain takes longer than others to understand things. I also fidget. A lot. Most of the time I don’t even notice it. My desk has become a sensory box over the years. Learning through distance education, I am able to do so freely and learn so much more.
On how she supports her emotional wellbeing: I am SUPER passionate about music and pop culture. I love TV like Doctor Who, Batman, Harry Potter, as well as most music. It gets me through so many rough days and helps me better understand my emotions and different situations. I can relate a certain situation to that one scene in that one episode of that one show to help explain my emotions and others. I make playlists to describe how I feel when words fail me, but when words don’t fail me, I write music. Creative outlets like these really help with day to day life and understand the outside world and ourselves. My adorable assistance dog, Missy, is also a HUGE part of my personal I Can Network. She is always there for me when I’m stressed or mad and can calm me down. I love her very much and I am so grateful to have her in my life.
On being Queer and Autistic: Just because I am on the Autism Spectrum doesn’t mean I should be seen as “lesser”. Just because I’m Queer doesn’t mean I should be seen as “lesser” either. There is a massive group of people who are on the spectrum and are also Queer who need to have their voices heard and who need to have connections with others. It’s really important that we invest in Queer Autistic individuals, as we are doing with I CAN, There are a lot of us out there, and we need to be acknowledged and appreciated in the broader Autism community and by society.
On why it’s so important for Autistic young people to have Autistic peers and mentors: There are still so many stigmas and negative outlooks on Autism. The I CAN Network has thrown those stigmas out the window. Bringing young Autistics together shows them that they aren’t alone in their journey, but seeing role models on the spectrum is just as important. Seeing others who have been through very similar circumstances and have come out of it a better person is so powerful. I was told by many people that things will get better, things will change, but I didn’t believe that until it did get better. I don’t want to just tell young Autistics that it will get better, I want to show them through my story. I would have benefited so greatly from seeing Autistic role models and I want to give that to others.
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.