Grape to meet you: Daniel Giles, Autism Advocate

How did you find out about the I Can Network?

I first found out about the I Can Camp for Young Adults through some of my existing networks. I decided to apply for the camp and give it a go! I felt nervous about some of the challenges I would be exposed to on the camp but overall, it was an amazing experience.

What made you want to join?

The I Can Camp was such an amazing experience and I admired the focus of focusing on the strengths of people on the Autism Spectrum. I was also excited by the possibility of being able to empower other young people on the Autism Spectrum to live life to the full!
I also wanted the opportunity to be part of an exciting movement, promoting a rethink of Autism from focusing on the deficits and challenges (as real as they are) to focusing on our gifts, talents and what we can offer society.

What does “I Can” mean to you?

To me, it’s about giving life’s opportunities a go and taking on new challenges. It is also about focusing not on what a person cannot do, but what they can do.
A brilliant example of taking on a new challenge was volunteering at the Teens Camp last year. I enjoyed having the opportunity to use my life experience to empower other people on the Autism Spectrum to give life their best shot. It was a daunting challenge to lead a group of teenagers on the camp but I truly valued this challenge. What was most rewarding was seeing the teenagers flourish and empowered to live life to the full.

What are your hobbies?

One of my biggest hobbies is photography and I love using photography to express how I see the world around me.
It is also a tool that I use to help live out the fullness of life and this motivates me to see the little moments of joy in everyday.
I take daily photos each day and put them up on Facebook. Sometimes they’re something big and other times, it’s a small thing that I appreciate.
I also am blessed to have the opportunity to use my biggest hobby as part of my job as a graphic designer and photographer for the Catholic Education Office in Bendigo. This involves assisting in the creation of publications, illustration work and ensuring the visual image of my workplace is well communicated.
As far as my photography is concerned, I sometimes photograph events that are happening and also visit schools and churches in Northern Victoria and photograph the facilities. I truly strive to capture the essence and character of the place in my photography. This was all made possible through the support of wonderful people who believe in my skills and talents, which I am truly grateful for.

What is your autistic superpower?

What a challenging question to define? But a couple of things come to mind here.
Firstly, I’m a very logical person. Planning travel on public transport is second nature to me and I am able to work out what the best route from A to B to get around Melbourne is (including what trains go in the City Loop at certain times and what platform to catch a train from, even though I don’t live in Melbourne).
This gift and skill of navigation is a skill I’ve had since childhood where I was studying street directories at the age of 8 and even got some on birthdays.
Another superpower is to be able to look at the detail of say street light poles and railway station signage and for example, compare what they look like in Victoria and what they would like in New South Wales. I even try to image NSW infrastructure being used in Victoria and vice versa.
I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of a number of things such as cars as a little kid and more recently, trains. As a kid I knew pretty much every model of Holdens and Fords. Now I take knowledge in finding out when different train fleets were built and can even distinguish a 1950s train carriage from a 1980s train carriage on the old V/Line locomotive trains – these look cosmetically similar due to refurbishment but I am able to tell subtle differences such as the types of doors, light fittings, window shapes and other minor features.
I like to say in all this that everyone has superpowers and we just have to discover them!

Do you have a message for our readers?

Autism is awesome!
For the people on the spectrum (and everyone else), know that you are amazing and unique individuals that by your uniqueness, have the potential to make the world a better place. I encourage you to live out this calling.
For all of us, let’s strive to create opportunities for all of us to work together to make the world a better place to live in!

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