I’m an Assistant Lecturer at Monash School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine in biostatistics, epidemiology and public health. I’m an Ambassador and speaker in the speakers agency for the I CAN Network. I’m also an Ambassador for Yellow Ladybugs, an organisation that holds monthly activities for young girls on the Spectrum. I also enjoy cycling, and I have previously raced at the Australian Masters Track Championships.
My strengths include number crunching of datasets and remembering important dates. I am often referred to by friends and colleagues as the ‘walking calendar of Victoria’.
I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in Year 9, aged 14. Aspergers is part of who I am. There was a time that I wondered what it would be like not to have Aspergers Syndrome, but then I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t have Aspergers syndrome, I wouldn’t be me. Therefore, I am glad that I have Aspergers Syndrome. Besides, I don’t know life any other way.
My family have been very important in allowing me to be so positive about my Aspergers Syndrome. Especially my parents, who have always allowed me to do things in my own time. I completed my Year 12 over two years, my Masters over four rather than three, lived at home for three-and-a-half years after starting full-time work, and I moved out when I was ready (at almost 31!). My Grandma, now aged 95, also forms an important part of my personal ‘I CAN Network’. She always offers me help when I need it, without making me feel like someone is looking over my shoulder all of the time. My work colleagues and friends also enable me through their flexibility.
As a result, I’ve been successful at school, university and work, because I have always focused on my strengths. At school, I was seen as successful academically, but no-one really saw the anxiety underneath. If I could say one thing to my 14-year-old self it would be, ‘The bullying because you’re “different” will cease, and you’ll soon be accepted for who you are. There are others out there that are like you.’
In my experience, people generally try to be inclusive and flexible for people on the Autism Spectrum, but sometimes our environments are not. I’m now in a workplace of people that understand and support me so that I’m able to work to the best of my ability, but many people don’t have this experience. If there is too much focus on someone’s negatives or deficits, then they will subsequently develop an I CAN’T attitude. If we focus on someone’s strengths, and make society aware of those strengths, then the individual will develop an I CAN attitude, and we will start to shift away from a negative perception of Autism.
This is what we are actively doing at the I CAN Network. I have been part of the I CAN Network since the beginning (12 noon, Thursday the 19th of September 2013!). Meeting people on the Autism Spectrum with varied levels of support requirements has definitely changed my own personal perception of Autism. For example, I have learnt that while verbal communication is often the ‘default’ method of communication, we shouldn’t forget other means. The I CAN Network helps many different people on the Autism Spectrum realise that they aren’t alone. It allows people on the Autism Spectrum to share their stories, and it offers young adults out of school a foot-in-the-door with supportive employment and volunteer opportunities.