Poppe-Simone, 14.

I am 14 years old and in Year 9 at school. I am very social and love going out doing lots of group activities. I am creative and love singing, music, modelling, swimming, textiles and rock-climbing. I swim in the Special Olympics and love to compete. I have State Championships coming up in Bendigo early April, and I can’t wait. My favourite stroke is the 50m freestyle but I also swim backstroke and breaststroke.  My times are usually personal bests each time I compete so that is really great, I am so proud of myself.

When I was 10 years old school was not enjoyable. I didn’t have confidence, courage or self-esteem and I didn’t have any loyal friends. So, what I want to tell my 10-year-old self is that things are going to get so much better. I want to tell myself that I’ve grown up. I have friends now and I know how to shut the bullies out. There will be some opportunities that will give me confidence that I have never felt before – opportunities that will give me strength and higher self-esteem. In the future, after each night comes a brighter day.

In my experience, teachers think they know about Autism but they really don’t. They make mistakes that upset our school work, friendships and anxiety. Their negative expectations of us make it hard to be the best that we can be. The brains of people on the Autism Spectrum might work differently from others, but we are human too. So, for everyone that’s ever told me I couldn’t follow my dreams, this message is for you: I’m not going to let negative expectations stand in my way. I feel like a million dollars now and nothing is going to keep me from pursuing my dreams.

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The I CAN Network is ensuring that Poppe-Simone grows up in a world that benefits from embracing her Autism. The I CAN Network is predominantly run by people on the Autism Spectrum. We are creating a society that celebrates Autism so that Poppe-Simone will be empowered to reach her full potential. You can create this future.

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