‘When I was diagnosed with autism, it came as a bit of a shock but everything started to make sense at the same time. I was sort of relieved - I knew that there was something wrong with me but I didn't know what it was.’
Andrew, 24, from Carlisle was already in his twenties when an assessment showed he was on the autistic spectrum, although most people are diagnosed during childhood.
Andrew made a film with Fixers, to spread the message that autism affects each person differently. Some are unable to speak and have learning difficulties. Others live normal lives – but with challenges to overcome.
To find out more about Andrew and his campaign, click here.
'It can be scary to learn that you have Asperger's syndrome, especially if you have grown up thinking that you don't have it.'
Jenny, 22, from Leicester was diagnosed with autism at the age of 13. She has a degree in English Language and Creative writing from De Montfort University, and became a Fixer to get the message out that autism is not a condition that needs to limit what you do in life. She is also concerned girls with autism are often overlooked as they are not expected to have autism.
With Fixers help she made a film featuring her 'spoken word poem' in which she talks about her own life, and explains some aspects of Asperger's Syndrome.
'From a young age I have felt very different to my peers. I always found social interaction difficult. I could never quite understand what was going on.'
Calvin, 17, from Poole has been working with Fixers to increase understanding of autism, and appeared in an ITV West film to explain his own experience of having Asperger's Syndrome, which was diagnosed when he was seven. Calvin says that, apart from social interaction, one of the most difficult aspects is sensory overload, which means he finds busy and noisy situations difficult.
He has however learned coping techniques to deal with situations that make him feel stressed and believes there are positives about being autistic which outweigh the negatives.
‘Performing arts has been something I have loved for ages, and I haven’t let my autism get in the way of pursuing that dream.’
Jayde, 17, from Folkestone, Kent, was diagnosed with autism in 2009 and became a Fixer because she wanted to show people on the autistic spectrum should not have low expectations of themselves ... and many can do whatever they want, if they put their mind to it.
With the help of Fixers, she made a film - shot in the theatre at the Leas Cliff Hall - which attempts to demonstrate autism should not stand in the way of someone who wants to be a performer. Jayde’s ultimate dream is to be chosen to sing a solo.
To watch Jayde’s film and learn more about her campaign, click here.
“People just made assumptions about me and I got labelled as a problem child because of my autistic traits. Teachers would just assume that I was being naughty”
Gabriel, 18, from Southport, Merseyside, made a film with Fixers because he doesn’t want other young people with autism to go through what he did at school.
He found the noisy school environment very challenging and, before his formal diagnosis of autism, was often accused by teachers of bad behaviour because of his sensitivity to sound, a common austistic trait. He also found it difficult to form friendships and had trouble communicating so “other students would assume that I was weird”.
Things have improved since his diagnosis and he has found college much easier, mainly because there is increased understanding of his autism.
To learn more about Gabriel and his film, click here.
‘A lot of the time, I’ve grown up without friends because people do not know how to react to the condition. I struggled to learn things at school, and I kept getting into trouble as I often had no idea how to react to social situations.’
Dwaynne, 25, from Cwmbran, feels there is still a lot of misunderstanding towards people with autism.
With the help of Fixers he made an animated film which attempts to explain autism spectrum disorders in simple terms, and which has received [so far!] more than 300,000 views on Fixers YouTube channel.
Dwaynne hopes to prevent young people from labelling those who appear different to them.
To see more about Dwaynne and his film, click here.
'Although my family always knew there was something not quite right with my behaviour growing up, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Throughout my life, I’ve been on the receiving end of derogatory, belittling and stigmatising comments by professionals and the public alike.'
Sonny Hawkins, 26, from Buckinghamshire says it is important to show how autism and mental health interlink so people can receive appropriate help.
‘Obsessive behaviours, sensory overload, difficulty with being able to read people and communicate are just some of the many symptoms of Asperger's syndrome,' he says.
Sonny created a website to serve as a platform for bloggers, artists and filmmakers with autism, mental health issues or a combination of both.
To see more about Sonny and his campaign click here.
‘I’ve had so much rubbish over the years with people misinterpreting and misunderstanding autism. I wrote the song to show that we’re just the same as everyone else. We’re no different.'
Luke Steels, 21, from London is a member of The AutistiX music group, which includes three young people with autism and three musicians without. Formed in April 2010 they've received standing ovations and have peformed with singer Tom Jones.
With the help of Fixers, Luke and his fellow band members shot a music video to accompany his song ‘Just the Same’. The film follows the group behind the scenes as they rehearse and later perform at a venue in London.
‘I want people to watch it and think – I have autism – so what?’ says Luke.
To see more about Luke, The AutistiX and their music video, click here.
'Experiencing loneliness is a common reality when autism is part of that wider narrative for an individual and can begin from an early age in life. Whether it is never knowing what to say that might be regarded as socially typical or gauging a reaction that feels appropriate to conversation topics.
‘As more awareness of autism is being spread so is acceptance.’
Jack Welch, 22, from Weymouth is an active ambassador for those with disabilities, especially autism.
Since June 2015, Jack has been a Youth Patron of Ambitious about Autism, specialising in participation and youth voice, and looks at how the lives of people with disabilities can be enriched.
Jack wants young people to have a voice and contribute to the important decisions that affect them.
‘Stimming can cause many different reactions from outsiders. It can appear frightening to some and it can also make people concerned about the person who is stimming. One time a man came up to me because he was worried I was having a seizure.’
Alex Lowery, 24, from Holywell in Flintshire, finds relief from aspects of his autism - including anxiety and the need to stimulate his mind - in self-stimulatory behaviour [stimming], which involves repetitive movements such as hand flapping, spinning around and rocking back and forth.
Alex is determined to explain the role of stimming in autism, and - with the help of Fixers - made a humorous film to make his point.
Alex, is also a public speaker and writer on the subject of autism.
To see more about his campaign and his film, click here.
‘Primary school was difficult – teachers didn’t really understand why I was behaving the way I was and would just tell me to be quiet or move me out of class as soon as possible without asking me what was wrong. One said I was ‘unteachable’ and that really hurt.’
Emma, 20, who lives in Chorley, was diagnosed with autism and ADHD when she was just seven years old. She was one of a group of young people who made a thought-provoking film with the help of Fixers in a bid to stop discrimination against people with disabilities, including autism.
She wants more people to understand what ‘being autistic’ actually means.
To see more about Emma’s campaign and her film click here.
‘I lived in fear of what would happen to me after school – I didn’t see myself having any friends or any relationships and I had some grim thoughts – I didn’t think I would live past 18. People with autism are not a puzzle to be solved and deserve to feel proud of who they are.’
Jessica, 20, from Birmingham came across an online community of autistic activists which provided her with support after being diagnosed with autism at the age of 14. She is an autistic acceptance champion and, whilst she struggled with bullies at school, now hopes to encourage society to celebrate autistic pride and diversity.
With the help of Fixers, Jessica made a film about her struggles and explaining how 'neurodiversity' should be accepted.
Click here to find out more about Jessica’s campaign, and film.
Feel Happy on the Spectrum is supported by Wellcome Trust.
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