Mikayla, 13.

My name is Mikayla and I am 13 years old. My hobbies include reading (my favourite book is The Book Thief), writing, doing crafts, and researching history – especially World War II. I love echidnas and my pet rock “Ice-Cream”. My favourite kind of writing is poetry and one day I hope to become a published author.

There’s not one specific time that I’ve felt isolated, as I’ve felt isolated just generally for most of my life, especially at school and in other social situations. I have never made friends easily. I had to do two years of kindergarten. Academically I was well above average, but the teachers said I had “social difficulties”. When I started school I used to go to the sick bay at recess and lunch because I would have no one to play with. It didn’t matter what age I was, the other kids always seemed different. They never liked or shared my interests; whether it was trying to fly, little Einsteins, echidnas, or anything about war. At school I’ve always been quite withdrawn, keeping to myself and just getting my school work done. Thanks to my parents I’ve participated in many social activities such as dancing, girl guides, and school holiday camps. But no matter where I was, I just didn’t fit in. I felt like I would never find my place anywhere.

Just before my 12th birthday I was diagnosed with Autism. After that, so many things started to make sense. I finally understood why I would become so obsessed with things and why I had trouble relating to other people my age. But I do wonder why it is called a “disorder”, because disorder makes it sound as though something is wrong with me. I’m not “wrong”, I’m just different.

In March, I went on my first I CAN camp. Suddenly I knew where I belonged. It was the first time that I felt I could really be myself in a social situation. I wasn’t the “odd” one out because no one was. The mentors on I CAN camp helped me realise that Autism can be a beautiful thing, and that I should be proud of who I am. My mother remarked that it was the first time I’ve been on a camp of any kind that I have come home without a single complaint or negative experience to tell. I am no longer embarrassed about my Autism. Since the I CAN camp I have willingly told some of my peers about my diagnosis.

The I CAN community helps people like me who are on the Autism Spectrum feel included, confident, and celebrated by allowing them to share their interests without fear of being ridiculed, and by allowing them to meet others who are just like they are. It is nice to not feel so alone. The I CAN community makes other people aware of how important it is to understand Autism and not exclude people on the Spectrum.

Autism means that I struggle with some things, but that is compensated by the strengths that I have in other areas. I hope my 10 year old sister gets to be a part of I CAN when she is older. She has just been diagnosed and she is in denial. She keeps saying “I don’t have Autism”. I think I CAN will be a big help to her too!

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