I’m a 28-year-old former soldier and Law/Commerce graduate, currently working in corporate governance. I aspire to become a professional company secretary in order to give back to my community in any way that I can. I am inspired by socially good organisations because I am fascinated by the evolution of ideas into striking and compelling outcomes. When I am passionate about something, I stubbornly absorb myself in learning more about the topic or issue, and I don’t allow failures to get in my way.
I am a fiercely driven individual. I also have Autism. These identities are in no way independent of each other, and rather, I see my Autism as a huge strength. My imagination, creativity and interest in new things has often allowed me to operate in a different space to many of my peers. I have a constantly active and inquisitive mind that is open to, and often yearns, for learning. My Autism is an asset, not a hindrance to me reaching my full potential.
Unfortunately, society hasn’t always viewed me in this way. My schooling experience was challenging because the school environment wasn’t supportive or inclusive of people on the Autism Spectrum. I was often viewed as unusual, with peculiar interests and ways of communicating. Instead of these differences being celebrated, I was often advised to align my behaviour and interests with those of my peers in order to achieve. This denied me the right to access and develop my own unique skillset. This also denied my community of the opportunities that could come about as a result of my ability to see the world differently.
My Autism is an asset, not a hindrance to me reaching my full potential.
Thankfully, with the support of my own personal ‘I CAN Network’ that includes my family, housemates, and the I CAN Network itself, I have been able to realise my enormous potential and shift my perspective – and the perspectives of others around me – on what being on the Spectrum really means. Perhaps it is time for a reformulation of the way in which Autism is defined. Maybe instead of ‘Autism’, we aim for ‘Augmented’. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and those of people with Autism are just different in some ways.
At the I CAN Network, we are setting out to prove what people with Autism can do, and showing just how amazing people on the Spectrum are. We don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool – we need to be celebrated, encouraged and inspired. That’s what we’re proactively doing at the I CAN Network, and I think it’s the best possible way to address the societal problem of exclusion.
I believe that a world that embraces Autism looks like one where the I CAN Network does not need to exist, and for every one hundred neurotypical people, there will be one or two Nikola Teslas, Thomas Edisons, Wolfgang Mozarts, Michael Palins or Charles Darwins. If you get involved with the I CAN Network and show your support, I believe that such a world is possible. There is always something more to be done. The more the community gets behind our work, the more traction our “Awetism Rethink” will gain, and therefore, societal change will occur at a more rapid rate. The stigma around Autism will only shift when people start seeing the opportunity that all individuals on the Autism Spectrum bring to our world.