A student stands before a crowd of about forty people in a room at NAB Bank in Melbourne. Their voice climbs the silent air. Just months ago, this same student never uttered a word in class. Just being in a room with ten other students was an ordeal. Yet here they are, giving a speech on their special interest in front of dozens of strangers.
This was a scene that played out again and again at I CAN Network’s Awetism Expo 2016, on the 18th of November. The students of our secondary school programs came together to share and celebrate their strengths, passions, and the progress they made over the course of the year.
There were presentations on everything from locomotives to photography, from engineering and IT to the arts; a broad spectrum of interests and talents. In the face of such a remarkable showing, stereotypes about autistics being incapable and inept were show to be as laughable as the suggestion that the Earth is flat.
Despite having worked closely with our students throughout the year, even us mentors were blown away by how far they’d come. Seeing them gain confidence and push themselves to new heights not only validates our positive and strengths-based approach to autism, but gives us hope and excitement for the future.
Moving forward, we’ll be working hard to expand the reach of our mentoring program so that more young people on the spectrum can benefit from our Rethink on Awetism. There are many more out there, and we can’t wait to meet them.
By Max Williams