Archer, 11.

I am Archer, I am 11 years old, and I live on a small farm outside of a country town. I really like living in the country because it makes me feel safe, everyone knows everyone, there are not a lot of people or shops, and the people in my town are nice. I have 3 dogs, Bella, Juno, and Mabel. Juno is my dog. When I am at home, Juno is always with me. I  have 3 older sisters, Alisha, Ruby and Pippa. I really like documentaries about anything – science, animals, travel, history – and I watch a lot of YouTubers who talk about the latest computer games and new gaming equipment. I have a great group of friends, we all have different interests but we really support each other and we laugh a lot. When I get older I think I want to work with computers and do what Chris Varney does, talking to people about Autism and helping people be the best they can.

There was a time when I was really anxious about going to school. The noise, the work, the people – it was all just too much. I started refusing to go to school, or if I did go I would run away from class or school. For a while I stopped going altogether. Luckily, I had my own personal ‘I CAN Network’ of people including my teachers, friends, parents, occupational therapist, and psychologist. We all worked really hard to figure out what I needed to feel safe and successful at school. I started being able to recognise when my body was starting to feel anxious, then work out what was making me feel anxious, and then put that into words. I eventually started going back just part time, and now I am back full time. No one thought I would be back at school full time and participating with my class so much this year.

Having a person at school who really listens, helps you, and understands how hard it is to put anxiety into words, is really important. My school safe person helps me implement strategies like going for a walk, using headphones, or even just having a rest. A person in my I CAN team said, “I am like a duck, I look all calm on the surface, but I am paddling at a hundred miles a hour under the water to stay afloat.” I feel that way sometimes, like I still have to work really hard. But feeling like I have a network that believe in me and want me to feel happy and successful has helped me to overcome my anxiety about school and prove people wrong.

The I CAN Network help the people around Autistic people to understand Autism, and they show people with Autism that you can find happiness in all sorts of great places. Now that I know how to put into words how I am feeling, I can support other people in my class who struggle with this, and support teachers to know what people on the Spectrum might need to feel better.

Autism means have I super focus in some things, and can be really sensitive to other things. I can pick up things other people miss and I can solve problems. Autism is me – it is how I see the world, and how I process the world.

Archer wants to help teachers to better understand Autism. We do too, and you can help. Join us by donating or giving monthly. Together, we can create employment opportunities for people on the Autism Spectrum, and can support schools and workplaces to celebrate their individual strengths.

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