Ben, 17.

I was diagnosed with ASD when I was 10 years old, but my mum didn’t tell me until I was 13 because she wanted to make sure that I was able to understand what it was. I felt different for a long time and one day I asked my mum if I had Autism. When she said yes, I actually felt fine about it, and mum explained all the positive things about it. I still don’t care about having Autism and actually feel proud about it. It makes me unique as I have a lot of interests, but I also feel it does hold me back socially as people don’t understand me sometimes. It makes it harder to make friends. I tell people it’s a mental condition that happens early in childhood. It makes it difficult to communicate, express yourself well and form relationships with people. It’s nothing to be ashamed of…it’s a gift and I feel proud of it. I don’t think about Autism and it doesn’t define who I am. I just enjoy my interests. I’m just me!

Some of the benefits of Autism to me are having the interests that I have and seeing things in a different way to other people. I think it can be a good thing.

I have had many obsessions over the years including rubbish trucks, spiders and short-wave radios/number stations. At the moment I am obsessed with languages, especially German, and would love to visit Germany one day. Finding Nemo was the first movie I saw as a young boy and I watched it over and over. I liked all of the special effects and the marine animations. I liked the story about Nemo’s relationship with his father and how parents care so much for their kids. I like music and play the keyboard, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. I really enjoy playing heavy metal music on my electric guitar and one of my favourite groups is the German band Ramstein. I teach myself new songs by watching YouTube videos and like jamming with my cousin ….me on guitar and him on keyboard. I enjoy plane photography and spend lots of time at Tullamarine and Moorabbin airports taking photos. I post the photos on an aircraft photo sharing website called Pinkfroot. My dad and I plan to visit different airports around Australia, so I can take more amazing photos. I really like languages, especially German. I have been teaching myself German by watching YouTube videos (Easy German) and was inspired to do this after listening to the German band Ramstein. The next step will be German language classes which I want to do with my dad. I enjoy sending postcards to people all over the world and do this via a website called “Postcrossing.com”. I use Google translate to write messages in different languages. I really enjoy coffee and like visiting different coffee shops with my cousin. We sometimes write reviews, especially if the coffee was good. I have lots of interests which means I can do and be good at a lot of things. I am saying I CAN to those.

I have a part time job at Coles. It’s good to work and earn my own money. I like cross country running and have joined the Glenhuntly Athletics club with my dad and uncle. We train twice a week …it’s hard but I’m getting better as I get fitter. I really love snorkelling and often go to Ricketts Point Marine Park in Beaumaris.

My I CAN network is parents, brother, uncles and aunties, cousins. They love and care about me and give me good advice.

A perfect world would be a world where I have a job related to one of my interests (e.g. German translator), have a lot of friends and felt loved and accepted.

I went to a mainstream school and am now at TAFE. I never really enjoyed school as I never felt accepted and always felt different. I found school work difficult as some teachers didn’t understand me and didn’t know how to help me learn. It’s better now as I am at TAFE, and with the course I am doing I am getting more support. I’d like tell my younger self, ‘don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Embrace yourself and be who you are!’

When I had trouble at school I would talk to the school counsellor, who was always helpful and supportive. You want to be able to ask your teachers anything without feeling embarrassed and want your classmates to understand and support you.

My favourite part of school is having time out to myself. I find it hard to sit and concentrate in a classroom for a long time. More education about Autism could make schools more inclusive; guest speakers; I really enjoyed taking part in the I CAN program at my high school. They understood you and were educating everyone else in the school as well.

The I CAN Network creates a world that embraces Ben’s strengths. We need your support to continue creating a society that empowers young people on the Autism Spectrum. Join us by donating to our next venture: holding one of our acclaimed camps in Queensland.

Go to //www.gofundme.com/ican-camp-qld to donate – any support is very much appreciated.
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