ARTICLE: Program puts good face on having autism (Sunraysia Daily, July 2016)

Program puts good face on having autism (Original article from Sunraysia Daily)

By Sarah Harman

VIEWING autism in a positive light and identifying opportunities for those on the spectrum was a focus of guest speaker Chris
Varney when he kicked off SuniTAFE’s Autism in Context program yesterday with his Quite Magic Method seminar.

Although Mr Varney was diagnosed with autism at five, he didn’t find out he was on the spectrum until he was 14, which, according to him, came as a huge relief.

“I was born into a typical family, my brother was a real Aussie boy, he loved sports, but I always felt like an alien growing up. I was a nine-year-old who liked researching European royalty and history,” he said.

Two years ago he helped found the I CAN Network, an avenue to change the stigma relating to autism, assist youth develop a can do attitude and to build networks that would support and work with the talents of those on the spectrum.

“In every situation it’s about uncovering strengths of those on spectrum, creating opportunities in everyday life, whether that’s through schooling, university or businesses.

“It’s not necessarily about imposing strategies and programs on people who are on the spectrum, but starting with the person and creating a plan around their interests.

“‘Diagnosis’ comes from a medicalised model that looks at what’s wrong with them; we’re trying to say we’re proud of being on
the spectrum.”

Mr Varney said while in Sunraysia his aim was to help identify ways for people with autism to work with local organisations and community groups to set up mutually beneficial networks.

“I’ll be sharing our method with the Mildura community to inspire them about what’s possible when they’re partnered with
people on the spectrum, simple ways to come on board and bring out their strength. Everyone benefits when we work together.”

The Autism In Context program will run for seven weeks and include a range of seminars hosted by experts in the field, including dyslexia and other learning disorders, working with complex behaviours and learning to read with explicit phonics

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