Connor, 15.

I am first and foremost a creator in a variety of formats, a paid Programmer and Actor, a published Artist and Writer. A Scientist that knows no boundaries as I create new ways to do things. Quick witted, I enjoy telling jokes and making others laugh. I love history and reading. I am always diplomatic and empathetic. I am a master at overcoming the constant hurdles in my life, and there have been many. Some have included anaphylaxis to a multitude of things and not eating prior to two and a half years old, severe asthma, infantile eczema from head to toe, precocious puberty and Autism. The doctors at Royal Children’s said it was unlikely I’d ever be able to go to school. They were wrong.

Autism to me describes a group of people who struggle with similar things. There are some areas of life that we don’t have innate knowledge in, and sometimes need to be taught. We often view the world differently than others. It’s not right or wrong, just different. It can provide many challenges to those of us on the Spectrum, but it can also give us super powers. So many people in society are programmed that they must do things in a certain way to have a successful life. It’s like they are on a conveyer belt, just ticking the boxes. But those with Autism create their own path, they don’t see the need to follow.

Even though I wasn't doing too well in science in one environment, I proved I could do brilliantly in another, more enabling environment.

Schools, workplaces and society are not inclusive when it comes to Autism. I have been to three primary schools and I’m now on to my second secondary school, due to schools not being inclusive. I have been bullied by fellow students and by teachers. Ignorance is limiting. Therefore, many people don’t understand me when I might have a different way of doing things. Society and schools would like me to conform to do things their way, but we are all individuals and deserve the right to be heard and do things our own way, as long as in the process we are not hurting anybody else. When I tell people I have Autism (proudly), they generally lean backwards and grimace as if it’s a contagious disease. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Ignorance does not serve people well.

Each year my skin gets thicker, as we put up with the bullying society brings to our door. At times when I’m not coping, I escape to my books, where I am in another world. Also my care dog Zella lets me remember that the simple things in life are often the best. She is non-judgemental and loves me no matter what. A rescue dog from Adelaide, she has improved the quality of my life. She comforts me when she senses that I need it. She wakes me each morning, and travels to school with me each day. She is often by my side and brings a smile to my face.

All my life, people tell me I can’t do things and I have a habit of proving them wrong. I remember a couple of years back when I wasn’t doing well in science at school, as I was so anxious in my classes due to the bullying. Mum was able to get me into a science programme at Monash University. Whilst there I wrote a book called ‘The Green Family’, that Monash entered into a competition. I won a State science competition with my book and the next time Sir David Attenborough was in Melbourne, I received an email inviting me to have morning tea with him. Imagine my science teacher’s eyes when Mum told her at the parent teacher interview that I had just received an invite from Sir David Attenborough. It was GOLD. So even though I wasn’t doing too well in science in one environment, I proved I could do brilliantly in another, more enabling environment.

Society needs to talk about Autism in a positive way so that it does not have stigma attached to it. Society is trying to squash a bright spark, and yet if they were just accepting and non-judgemental, that small bright spark would be able to flourish, live a happy life, and contribute to society in an amazing way for the benefit of all people.

The I CAN Network is educating society, and acts as an advocate for people on the Spectrum. I am living proof of the difference they can make in people’s lives. I first became involved in the I CAN Network after I attended a speech by Chris Varney, and my life has become more colourful and I am happier as a result. The I CAN Network is changing the way society thinks about Autism. It has given me more confidence as an individual. I understand myself better, and that spills over to every area of my life. I CAN has increased my friendships and support network, and the camps have given me a better understanding of the diversity of the Spectrum. I have had mentors that have helped me learn and grow, and I now know that my future shines bright.

Everyone in society needs to understand that we are all unique and that’s okay. You are you. I am I. Nobody is superior or inferior. We have different voices, tastes and dislikes, and most importantly, we have different minds. No two people have travelled the same path and experienced the same obstacles or advantages as each other. We all have different strengths and hurdles in life that we try to overcome. A world that embraces Autism will be a happier place for everyone.

Join us

Through I CAN Camps, the I CAN Network ensures that Connor’s community benefits from embracing his Autism. Right now, you can enable a young person to realise their potential by financially supporting a camp scholarship program.

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