I was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 9. Before I was diagnosed I seemed to be a fairly ‘normal’ kid who just loved life, however that changed when I reached primary school. For the first two years, I mostly sat in class with the occasional bit of pencil sharpening. I couldn’t even read until grade 2 and if the constant bullying and lack of understanding wasn’t bad enough it got worse after my diagnosis.
When I was diagnosed with Autism, my school started to treat me differently as though they suddenly knew how to ‘fix’ me. I was put into special classes that seemed like a waste of the teacher’s time as I either already knew how to do something, or I just found it boring and pointless such as reading a phonebook. Life didn’t get much better when I reached secondary school as I saw my diagnosis as a bad thing that I should be ashamed of. This was also the year I found out just how far I was behind all my peers. My first semester reports showed that I was two years behind in math alone and that I needed immediate help. I began to doubt that I could ever reach year 12 let alone finish it. That is where my wonderful mother stepped in to help. After school each night throughout year 7 she taught me a total of 3 years’ worth of math just so I could be at the same level as everyone else.
After year 7, and with the support of my mother, everything began to improve – I was no longer being bullied and I was coping better with the schoolwork, however, I continued to hide my diagnosis for another 3 years. 2016 ended up being a big year for me as that was when I began to be an advocate for Autism acceptance. On April 10th 2016 I wrote my first blog post which revealed my diagnosis to my friends and peers and I also discovered the I CAN Network. This wonderful organization has become an important part of my life as I now look to be a speaker with them and maybe even a mentor in the future. That wasn’t all, as in July 2016 I was elected onto the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC). The VicSRC is an organization that envisions a future where every student has access to an education that is student-led, student-driven and student-focused. On the VicSRC I represent Autistic students and in doing so have had the opportunity to help make VicSRC events, and hopefully many schools, more Autism friendly.
I believe that a world that accepts and embraces Autism is possible. We just have to work for it.