My name is Mikey and I am 15 years old. I live with my mum and three brothers. We all have Autism. I go to the South Gippsland Specialist School. I am awesome.
I went to the bank last week by myself for the first time. I used to tell myself that I couldn’t do it because I was scared. Last week I decided not to be scared of strangers anymore and I went out by myself. I believed in myself. I was proud I did this and I am awesome.
My Autism makes me funny and I am awesome
Kris – Jarod, Ben, Mikey and David’s Mum.
I’m a single mum of four teenage boys all on the Autism Spectrum. We all live together in a small country town in Gippsland called Mirboo North. I have been told many times in the past that my boys might not be able to function well in society. I was warned not to think too much about the future – the connotation being it was probably bleak, and that worrying about it might send me around the bend. I have often felt isolated when someone feels sorry for my situation and pities me. Most people assume that it’s a life not to be envied. This couldn’t be further from my truth. I love having four boys on the Spectrum and I want to celebrate my luck in getting to experience this life every day.
For me, I really noticed a massive change in the whole family dynamic when I made the decision to change my personal philosophy about what Autism meant to me. Instead of choosing to see it as a deficit based disorder, I chose to see if as a gift for my family and my children. This decision was made quite easily when I actually took the time to watch my son Mikey play one day when he was about three years old. Watching him experience what I can only describe as pure joy while playing with a piece of blu tack for three hours. It made me reflect on my own life and happiness. That day I realised I had so much to learn from my boys about how to enjoy my life through the many gifts their unique brains had to offer – and not the other way around!
I actively chose to interact with professionals, family members and friends that supported me and my boys. I looked for adult Autistic role models and mentors in the field of Autism. I read books that were uplifting and positive, and I listened to my gut when making decisions on behalf of the boys. I always asked the question, ‘Is this activity or interaction celebrating their strengths, or will it only serve to limit their growth?’
When I decided to see the gifts having Autism had to offer, the meltdowns and struggles became secondary and were less important. Focussing on what they could do, how amazing they were at their own areas of interest – that’s what I wanted to spend my time doing. My boys enjoy me pointing out their strengths, their abilities and their resilience, not the things they can’t do, the things they have trouble with and how many meltdowns they have had.
When I came across the I CAN Network I was delighted I had found others who shared my personal philosophy and dreams for my children’s future. People who believe that not only do individuals on the Spectrum have so much to offer, but they can have skills that others may lack in the area of their particular interest or passion.
The I CAN Network is at the forefront of what I believe is the way of the future for individuals on the Spectrum – helping individuals have an ‘I CAN’ attitude toward themselves, their life, and their skills. They do this by support, mentoring, camps, and by giving people on the Spectrum a positive voice and a sense of belonging and value that they might not have otherwise had. I can’t speak highly enough of the program, what it stands for, and how it has helped my family. In particular my son Ben has significantly improved his self esteem, self worth, and has grown so much as an individual since he became involved as a participant then a mentor in the campaign.
Autism is the most incredible, perplexing, fascinating, joy-filled way of life for those of us lucky enough to get to be around it.
Mikey and his three brothers are embraced by their family, and celebrated for their individual strengths. We need your support to make sure that all young people on the Autism Spectrum are supported in schools, workplaces and communities. Join us by donating or giving monthly to create employment opportunities for people on the Autism Spectrum, and to support schools and workplaces to celebrate their individual strengths.