I was misdiagnosed with an intellectual disability as a 2 year old, but this stayed with me for many years. As a teenager I was again mis-diagnosed; this time with schizophrenia. This meant time in and out of mental health facilities for the following 25 years. I was correctly diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, and a learning difficulty in my 40’s. I felt isolated throughout my teens and during huge chunks of my early adult life. Moving in and out of mental health clinics and not being understood, was very isolating.
Eventually I overcame these times of isolation because certain individuals took a risk with me, befriended me, and supported me to find myself. I had people who believed in me. I married and had 4 children and eventually returned to school, then university, and obtained my PhD with Deakin University in Psychology. Now I am a registered psychologist, lecturer, and teaching fellow with Birmingham University, United Kingdom. I am a member of the I CAN Network’s South West board; the SEAL Warrnambool board, and I am involved with Autism CRC, Australia. In 2008 I came 4th in the Australian of the Year award for Victoria. My wife is Autistic, my son is Autistic, and out of our 3 gorgeous grand kids, 2 are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.
Growing up, I was told I would never amount to anything and I was not expected to further my education beyond high school. Even though I didn’t make it to university as an eighteen year old, I completed years 11 and 12 at the age of 38, and I went to university as a mature age student – I did it!
I believe my perseverance and persistence to overcome negative expectations played a big part in my being able to prove people wrong. I found other ways around my difficulties by reading books, spending time in libraries, in later years using Google and YouTube to help explore and build understanding. My actions opened doors to further learning and this helped me to defy the negatives!
The I CAN Network supports people on the Autism Spectrum to overcome negative expectations and assumptions by way of sharing our stories and also physically helping us to become who we are. It helps us ‘see’ what life can offer us and it helps us get there. The I CAN community enables people on the Autism Spectrum to feel included, confident, and celebrated because it walks the path with us and is there each step of the way. The I CAN community understands us, because they are us!
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.