April is recognised across Australia as Autism Month, with April 2nd celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day.
Throughout the month of April, we are sharing personal stories from the community highlighting the strengths, goals and passions of the storyteller and learning what inclusion means to them - you can read these stories below. Through sharing these personal stories, thoughts and opinion pieces from our community, we hope to highlight the diversity of our journeys and the importance of an inclusive society. This page will continue to be updated as we share more stories throughout the month.
'Hi! My name is Hayley and I’m 22 years old. I love dancing, my cat and dog (Kitty and Tilly) and hanging out with my nieces and nephew.
I was born with a rare metabolic condition called galactosemia. This means that I am on a strict diet of no dairy, but it also causes speech issues, cognitive issues, motor issues, fertility issues, tremors and sometimes seizures. I was also diagnosed with autism when I was 12 years and 10 months old.
Autism has affected my life socially, mostly during my later school years as I've had difficulty trying to make friends. Inclusion is so important and means a lot to me…in 2020 my dance coach, Alana, opened up dance for All Abilities! and for that, I am so thankful, because I finally have friends I can relate to. I also do soccer which is for all abilities too.
Raising awareness and educating others about autism is so important as I've found many people don’t have an understanding [of autism or disability] especially if they have never known anyone close to them. It is good to educate people that we are just like everybody else and want the same things.'
'My name is Briannah, I am 12 and a half years old, I have two sisters and I'm an aunty. I was diagnosed with autism at 8 years old along with other hereditary conditions from both my parents.
My sister and I both have autism, but we are different in every way. She's social and I'm not. She's active and I'm not. She's a sensory seeker and likes to wrestle and I don't like being touched!
I love cats, anime/manga, reading, drawing and video games.
I've always really struggled to make friends and often spent my time alone at school and my teachers also struggled to understand my way of learning or what I needed. Because I also have selective Mutism people think I'm rude or that I don't need help because I'm so quiet.
School just wasn't working for me and my grades started to suffer because of bullying and lack of support and understanding. So I started home schooling... my grades were really good at home and I made online friends through schooling online, but... online friends weren't the same as real life ones.
I decided, as hard as it was going to be, that I wanted to start high school this year.
With the help of Lisa at Autism SA and her speaking to my school and teachers and organising pre school meetings with staff and other kids and helping educate the school about my needs to make school work for me, I started in Year 7, high school this year!
I've been there a term now and I already have six friends and have had a couple of hangouts dates at my house with friends! Tomorrow I'm walking home from school with my friend and dropping into the IGA to buy something. (I wont even leave my mums side to get something at the end of the shopping isle so this is huge for me...)
Thanks to support, understanding, inclusiveness, training of Mt Carmel college and Lisa/Autism SA my grades have exceeded everyone's expectations. I now smile, chat and look forward to going to school everyday.
Yes I'm a little quirky and different... but I'm proud of myself and so are my teachers and family.
I believe with the right support and being included, people with autism can do anything just like anyone else.
I now smile and love being at school with my friends.'
"I wish I could have been included.
There must be a whole generation of older adults who are autistic. They have been unable to benefit from the wonderful suite of services offered to today's autistic younger people.
It is sad to think that a whole generation of autistic people will soon be needing Aged Care Services. These people may not even know they are autistic. They may just soldier on.
They may have spent a lifetime trying, sometimes failing to be included in a world that can be confusing to them. All they knew was they were not included and didn't know how to be.
Always include older autistic people. They have a lifetime of lived autistic experience. Include them before it is too late and this wonderful resource is lost.
I wish I could have been included."
"My name is David and I have been enjoying a nearly 17-year career as an employee at Autism SA. Outside of work, I am married with two children and on the weekends, I enjoy umpiring Aussie Rules Football during winter and cricket during summer.
My autism journey began when I was diagnosed at 12 years of age by Autism SA, known back then as the Autistic Children’s Association of SA. I don’t have that many memories of primary school except for my year seven graduation, but my memories at high school are a lot better. During my time at high school I was a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) from Year 9 through to Year 12, becoming SRC president and a member of the Prefects in 1999. I was voted by the students in both and it was important that I was recognised for who I was and my strengths.
Year 12 schoolwork aside, my last year of high school was highlighted by heartbreak, challenges and changes that became so overwhelming, but still I managed to graduate from high school. At the end I was offered a year off from study or [the option to] head into tertiary education. I decided to choose the latter and studied Business Administration at TAFE for 18 months, getting my Certificate IV in 2001.
I have a few achievements in my life, one of them is securing employment with Autism SA after applying for over 100 jobs without success. I started out as a volunteer at Autism SA in 2003, joining as a casual employee in 2004 and then becoming part time in 2005. I worked in Community Relations when I started and now work as an Administration Officer in Organisational Support.
My greatest achievement, however, is football umpiring. I became a field umpire in the now defunct North Eastern Metro Football Association in 2006 and was recognised with life membership of the Association in 2016. I make a good football umpire because I have a loud voice and a loud whistle. Shortly after, the Association folded and joined the SANFL Juniors where I continue to umpire junior football to this day, effectively making me the last umpire in the Association to receive life membership.
Inclusion is about giving everyone a fair go, and as a football umpire I have officiated in inclusive football games run by SANFL which features players with a disability who love to play the game. Inclusion means everything and can make a difference to anyone, whether on the autism spectrum or any other disability."
"My name is Luke and I have Asperger Syndrome. To date, I am a bagpipe player and composer, sailor, runner, published author, amateur film maker and photographer, and I practice Muay Thai. I have also just applied for the Australian Defence Force Reserves.
I was diagnosed later in my life, in my late teens. I remember sitting in that diagnostic room and just staring at this poster on the wall. Up until that moment, life was confusing, and I wasn’t sure why I didn’t fit in. When I read the information [about autism] on that poster I sat there gobsmacked. I realised it was me up on that wall. It absolutely blew my mind. Everything I had been through was put into a context, and my diagnosis that day gave me tools to work with, that I didn’t have before.
I was lucky to have a teacher in high school who knew that I was an aspie before I did. Looking back, (he) and other likeminded people were great mentors and coaches, and I can see that having people that understand you makes a huge difference. My Mum had to be an advocate for me during high school, because so many people higher up in the system didn’t understand me. I don’t believe that just awareness and acceptance alone, are enough. It seems empty to accept something but not understand it properly.
I wish more of my teachers understood autism; I believe they need to be tooled up with strategies to accommodate aspies. We’re often removed from classrooms which doesn’t help. We need to be in those social situations so we can learn – if we keep being pulled out of class, then we lack the exposure of learning and what it’s like to be socialising in the classroom with other people. At the other end, I also think it is important that all students are exposed to people from different backgrounds and abilities and taught to treat everyone the same, as we should already do, as this will help in a big way in preparing them to be great adults, carrying our future society with them.
We need to work on and help change society so that inclusion is seen as a normal, everyday basic thing. It shouldn’t be something that we have to think about, stop and do; it should eventually become something we do without thinking. Through this I believe we will make huge accomplishments together because aspies can, and already do, contribute to society in huge, unique, and diverse ways.
Personally, I have had many achievements in life, but I think my biggest achievement and message to others is to not giving up. As an aspie you find yourself in moments in life that are so hard, you feel alone, you just want to give up because things aren’t working, you often cry to yourself and sometimes you just want to stop. Every time I get knocked down; I pick myself up. In the end, the more you do, the wiser and more resilient you become. I cannot emphasise enough – know thyself."
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