Category Archives: Humans on the Spectrum 2020

Grapevine

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – MADI KENNA

“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.

Click here or on the image below to watch Madi’s interview.

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.

Madi


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.

Humans on the Spectrum 2020

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – LACHLAN PEACH

Through I CAN and being a mentee, I got a lot more courageous and a lot more willing to do stuff I never thought I would even consider engaging in. – Lachlan

During our South West Victoria team’s 2017 video rendition of “You Can’t Ask That!”, Lachlan Peach delivered this classic insight: No, I don’t think I’ll grow out of my Autism. Autism is a part of me. If I’m gonna grow, it’s gonna grow with me.’ Lachlan’s journey from I CAN mentee to mentor has been marked by immense growth — in his confidence, his own Autistic identity and his ability to encourage younger Autistics with his positive outlook and chilled out humour.

In this brief video interview, Lachlan explains how Autistic peers and role models have helped him develop confidence and pride, offers advice for Autistic young people who are contemplating post-school life and shares why he aspires to go into teaching one day. Click here or on the image below to watch the video. 

 Lachlan Peach Humans on the Autism Spectrum 2020 Video Transcript pdf

On his first I CAN Network experience: Being with other Autistic peers gave me the chance to be open and not have any fear about being judged. Everyone could relate in some way to things I had gone through. We could all just be ourselves and have great fun. There was no shame and it was just awesome.

On the importance of Autistic community: It’s important to have contact with other Autistics for the simple reason that you don’t have to worry about being misunderstood. If you trip up and say something silly, you don’t have to worry about the instant backlash or looking bad. Even if people disagree with you, there’s always a feeling of support.

On his message to the world: Never doubt us Autistics. We will always surprise you. You can assume what we’re going to do, but we’ll come up with something different and better to beat those expectations.

Lachlan.


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.

Humans on the Spectrum 2020

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – JAKE HOLLAND

“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.

Jake


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.

Humans on the Spectrum 2020

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – RYAN FREEMANTLE

“I now have the chance to help the younger generation understand that Autism is not a scary thing and I can encourage them to identify their own strengths.” – Ryan

Ryan Freemantle is a wonderful example of someone who has used his own positive experience as an I CAN mentee as inspiration to become a mentor himself and serve the community in many meaningful ways. A key part of our Goulburn Murray team, Ryan brings a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy to his mentor role. Mentees especially enjoy hearing about his volunteer work with the CFA (Country Fire Authority) and his lively recounting of events!

In this brief video interview, Ryan shares some of his experiences in high school, his very cool career aspirations and offers encouragement to other Autistic young people. Click here or on the image below to watch Ryan’s video interview. 


On his work with the CFA: I got into the CFA because it was always something that caught my eye as a child and I also had some friends involved with it. I’ve been a member of the Tatura Fire Brigade since late 2018; I joined just after I turned 17. .As a volunteer with the CFA, I’m on call all through the fire season and even in the off season. I’m wildfire qualified but not able to go to building fires yet. However, I do go to the brigade events and help out whenever and for as long as I can!

On his changing view of Autism: Being involved in I CAN has changed the way I view Autism. It’s no longer something to be frightened of or something that I feel like I need to keep secret. Early on, I didn’t think of Autism as a good thing. But now I think of it as a gift. Autism gives you a different perspective on life. I now have the chance to help the younger generation understand that Autism is not a scary thing and I can encourage them to identify their own strengths.

On his own strengths: I’m good with my hands. I enjoy getting to know people and work well with my teammates. I’ve been told that I have strong leadership skills, too!

On a world that embraces Autism:  We need more people to talk about Autism in a positive way so that Autistics feel a part of the community and not ashamed of who we are or easy targets for bullies. A world that truly embraces Autism would be a more welcoming place to live in – and a much livelier one, too!

Ryan


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.

Grapevine, Humans on the Spectrum 2020

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.

Humans on the Spectrum 2020

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – AYESHA CARSON

“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.

Ayesha


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.

Humans on the Spectrum 2020

HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM – MAX WILLIAMS

“You are more capable than you think you are.” 

Since 2014, mentor Max Williams has been at the core of our I CAN team, mentoring hundreds of Autistic young people over the years and never failing to share his distinctive sense of humour, strength in the face of adversity and pride in being Autistic.

In this video interview, Max shares his insights on overcoming hurdles in life, adjusting to university life, the importance of Autistic strengths and how he manages to remain optimistic amid challenging times.


More insights from Max:

On embracing Autism: Autism is a core component of who we are, and as such casting it as a negative can lead us to feel like we are fundamentally broken. On the other hand, a positive outlook on Autism allows us to feel empowered and capable. A world that embraces Autism would be a world where we are not seen as diseased or defective versions of ‘normal’ people, but as valid and valued versions of ourselves. Autism acceptance has grown in leaps and bounds within my lifetime, but we’re still a long way from complete inclusion. It’s a work in progress. 

On career aspirations: When I was four years old, I wanted to be a steam train driver, but then once I learned how to write that’s all I wanted to do. I’ve wanted to get books published and be a novelist since I was five. In my twenties, I came across the I CAN Network and discovered Autism advocacy and realised, “Wow! I also find this incredibly meaningful and incredibly valuable.” I still want to get that book published. And I will get it published. I’m working on it!

On preparing for the workplace: For me, volunteer work was an invaluable stepping stone to a full-on job, because it allowed me to get a feel for the way a workplace works without there being as much pressure. It’s also absolutely worth doing in its own right, I can’t recommend it enough.

On learning to say “I CAN”: There have been so many times when I’ve thought “I can’t do this” or “That is something I will never be able to do because I have these limitations or I have these disabilities”. When I was 15, I thought that I’d never be able to leave home or go to university or live independently or have a job, and now at 31, I have all those things. I didn’t think these things were possible even when I was 18 or 19, and well, here we are!

It’s been a running theme in my life. Every time that I’ve thought that I couldn’t do something, my amazing network — my parents, my teachers, my friends — have really propped me up and pushed me to push myself and try things even if I don’t think I am able to do.. And in nearly every case they are right – I can do them!

On being a role model: When I was a kid, I didn’t have access to older Autistic role models to tell me that I wasn’t broken and that things would get better. That would’ve made a world of difference for me, and so I want to provide that support for those growing up on the spectrum today. That to me is the essence of I CAN. 

Max


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.