Lauren, 21.

My name is Lauren and I live with my mum, dad and twin brother Matthew. I have Autism and an Intellectual Disability. So many things are hard for me so the best way to help me learn and grow is by using the things I love and I am interested in. I love LEGO, music, art, food, horse-riding and travel. I work at Inside the Brick sorting LEGO and this is the best job in the world. I exhibit my LEGO sets and creations.

Like all people, I have strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, wants and needs.

On the second day of Grade Prep my parents were told to take me out of mainstream school because I would fail Grade Prep and not achieve anything. I once had a piano teacher say she would not help me start preparing for preliminary classical piano exams because I had no chance of success. Another time, a riding coach told my mother to get realistic and accept that I would never be able to go far in an external dressage competition. I now compete with Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia in state and national dressage competitions, I am preparing to sit Grade 5 piano exams later this year, and in 2016 I successfully completed my unscored VCE! My mum and I drove past the primary school that had not believed in me, wound down the window and I yelled out as loud as I could, ‘You were wrong!’

Despite having greater support requirements, I was able to achieve these things with the support of wonderful people who we call “Team Lauren”. These people were willing to understand my individual learning needs, to break up any given tasks into small steps and to follow what we still call “Lauren’s Creed”. Lauren’s Creed is a statement of beliefs that reflect my support needs and is used as guidance in setting me up to succeed. These wonderful people believed in me and set me up to succeed. On “Team Lauren” were teachers, aides, a beautiful piano teacher, positive and encouraging horse-riding coaches, a couple of amazing Principals and Vice Principals, and an employer who worked positively and closely with my mum. I also was able to be the best I could be with the help of a small but wonderful group of friends (and their mothers) who gave me the chance to feel like I belonged. I will stop doing exams after Grade 5 and move to my next goal of playing voluntarily in an old people’s home.

I am very proud of what I have achieved and the I CAN Network has helped me celebrate my achievements. The I CAN Network can help people on the Autism Spectrum by surrounding us with positive people who believe in us and inspire us. We need understanding and support. We need people to encourage us and people who understand that having a positive attitude is the most important thing for us. Like all people, I have strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, wants and needs. The I CAN Network helps me feel that I CAN achieve in life.

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. Join us by donating or giving monthly to create employment opportunities for people on the Autism Spectrum, and to support schools and workplaces to celebrate their individual strengths.

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