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#ShineALightOnAutism with Olive

You may think of April only as the time when Autumn really sets in and the year is in full swing. What you may not know is that April is also a month dedicated to raising awareness about autism, a campaign which kicks off on April 2nd with the United Nation’s World Autism Awareness Day. This year’s theme is #ShineALightOnAutism, encouraging people to put in the work and learn more about the condition that 1 in 70 Australians are living with. This week, Stories from Within series participant, Olive was gracious enough to give me insight into her experience of living with autism. In honour of Autism Awareness Month, we spoke specifically about the lack of information surrounding autism, and how a more knowledgeable population can lead to a more accepting society.

The first thing that Olive would like the world to know about her experience of living with autism is that you don’t have to be outwardly presenting to be struggling with it. Those not living with autism often have a preconceived idea of what someone with autism looks like. People who don’t fall into that category get less support, and their struggles aren’t treated with the same respect. Olive believes that if she fit into people’s stereotypes about autism then they would stop trying to relate to her so much. She spoke about opening up to someone about her autism only to be met with “I think I have autism too - wooden spoons really irk me”. Not only do responses like these invalidate Olive’s experience of autism, reducing it down to being simply “irked”, but they are also attempts to convince Olive that it’s okay to have autism. Olive knows that it’s okay, and doesn’t need people to tell her so.

It was only when Olive joined Travengers - an autism and hidden disability travel organisation that she found people who truly understood her experience. Whilst bonding with her peers in this social group, Olive realised that everyone was “still figuring it out”. There is so little accessible research or information that even people living with autism still have questions. Being surrounded by like-minded people at Travengers has offered Olive the opportunity to relate to others’ experiences. On a recent excursion with the Travengers to an art gallery, Olive noticed several of her friends wearing headphones. Olive instinctually tries to mask her autism, and never thought that it would be okay to bring headphones to a gallery - seeing others do it has taught her that she can be more confident doing things to fit her needs.

This Autism Awareness Month, Woven Threads encourages you to put in the work to learn more about autism and the different ways that it can affect people. Check out Autism Awareness Australia for helpful resources such as ‘Finding love again, with an autistic partner’ or ‘Why would I employ autistic people?’.

You can watch a preview of Stories from Within: Olive here. Thanks to Olive for taking the time to share her experience.

Help is available. If you require immediate assistance, please call 000. To speak to a 13YARN Crisis Supporter, call 13 92 76 For an Indigenous run and led support service please contact Deadly Connections on 18004USMOB or 1800487662 If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online. Have something on your mind? You can reach out to BeyondBlue at 1300 22 4636 or chat online. Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

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