Lauren, 20

(with help from mum, Dianne)

I am 20 years old and I have a twin brother, Matthew. When I was little my parents noticed that I was not developing like my brother. That was because I am on the Autism Spectrum and have an intellectual disability.

Everything is hard for me so my parents have concentrated on what I am good at, rather than what I am not good at. I love LEGO, horse riding, swimming, food, going to concerts and the theatre! My parents have used these things that I love to help me to improve in the areas I am not so good at.

I am very proud of myself. I have been encouraged to achieve my hopes and dreams. I am now working under the supported wage scheme and have the best job in the world…. sorting LEGO. I love learning dressage with ‘Riding for the Disabled’, and last year I participated in the RDA State and National Championships which was very exciting.

On the second day of primary school my parents were told I would fail grade prep. They were told not to expect anything of me as I would amount to nothing. I am very proud to say that they were wrong because I have now completed my VCE.

I have many strengths. My “thing” is LEGO and I love building and sorting. No one sorts LEGO like me because I am 100% accurate, organised, and I never stop working. I have a wonderful long-term memory. I am very musical. What makes me unique is my determination, my work habits, and my smile!

Autism means that I need people to understand my way of experiencing the world. Because of Autism I find it very difficult to communicate and to interact with others. Most of my life professionals have told me (and my parents) that I couldn’t do things! On the second day of primary school my parents were told I would fail grade prep. They were told not to expect anything of me as I would amount to nothing. I am very proud to say that they were wrong because I have now completed my VCE.

My first piano teacher told me that I had no hope of doing exams. I have now completed Preliminary, Grade 1, 2, 3 and 4 exams, and later this year I will do Grade 5 Piano. It is not easy at all, and it has taken 15 years of lessons and practice but I have achieved all of my goals. Another teacher told me music theory was too hard for me, and that I would certainly fail so why bother! For my Grade 1 music theory exam I got 96% and for Grade 2 I scored 93%. That is not even close to a fail!

My message for schools, workplaces and broader society is ‘Set me up to succeed, understand me, and support me. Because if you do, I will grow wings to fly and then just watch what I can do!’ I surround myself with what we call “Team Lauren”, who support me, believe in me, and encourage me. My family as well as all the wonderful people who belong to “Team Lauren” make up my personal ‘I CAN’ network.

I love having Autism and it is important for people to see Autism as I do. In Year 11 I did my English Oral on why having Autism is so good, and the whole class stood up and clapped. Some students and my aide were crying. I don’t think people consider enough the positive things about having Autism, just the negative things. It is important that people see the many positives about Autism.

The I CAN Network is about having an I CAN attitude. People with Autism CAN live their hopes and dreams and it is great to be around others who also believe. We can support, encourage and inspire each other to be the best that we can be. The more people join this network, the more society will change for the better.

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The I CAN Network creates a world that embraces Lauren’s strengths. We need your support to continue creating a society that empowers young people on the Autism Spectrum.

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