Hi I’m Bryce. I’m 17 years old and currently I am studying year 11 at Brauer College Warrnambool. I was diagnosed with autism when I was 9 years old. Before I was diagnosed I thought I was what most people would describe as normal. I was a happy kid who didn’t care what people thought of me. After I was diagnosed with autism my life changed, I was bullied even more than before and my school never seemed to understand what they should teach me as to them I was just the kid with autism. When I started secondary school I felt alone as I was different from everyone else. I told my mother not to inform my school of my diagnoses as I wanted to fit in.
This year has been the best year of my life as this is the year I heard about the I CAN Network. I finally decided to tell everyone who I really was and joined the I CAN mentoring program. The I CAN Network has taught me a lot about myself. I didn’t know for example I am really good at architecture which I guess you could call my greatest strength. I am also been described by others as a good leader who doesn’t take no for an answer.
Autism used to mean not being treated equally, as having a DISability. Today I see Autism as a bunch of unique individuals with amazing Abilities who have changed the world for the better and who deserve to be treated with respect by Neurotypical people. Autism benefits me a lot, it is who I am. Autism allows me to open other people’s eyes to ideas that they probably wouldn’t have thought of. Autism has also given me the gift of attention to detail. Whenever I draw a building everything is as though it is something you could live in. When I first heard of the I CAN Network I thought to myself where was this network when I was in primary school as it is full of people who understand autism as a lot of them have it too. The I CAN program means freedom for me as I can just be myself. It is a place where I can let all my autism traits come out to play. The best part of this program I think is being able to get together every fortnight with students who before the program I probably wouldn’t have talked to or known existed. This program is the best program we have in the South West for people on the spectrum as it embraces autism by teaching us what we can do and we get treated as equals. I believe that the best way we could change Neurotypical people’s perception is as easy as educating them about what autism is and what people on the spectrum can achieve and have achieved. This is the reason that in July I stood up in front of over 180 students from all over Victoria and presented a 50 second nomination speech to get elected onto the state Student Representative Council. I told everyone exactly the reason why I was nominating. I wanted equal representation for those students who were not seen as being mainstream and in particular I wanted to represent students on the spectrum.
I believe in a world where autism is accepted by everyone, where no one is judged by a label. Autism isn’t a bad thing and people in a perfect world would know that. They wouldn’t be afraid of us because we are different. The I CAN program has changed my life; instead of hiding my autism I am now an advocate for it and I constantly post articles on Facebook in an attempt to change people’s perception as I believe that a world that embraces autism is possible, we just have to work towards it.