At what age were you diagnosed with autism?
I was 16 years old.
What does it mean to you to be autistic?
Autism affects my life both positively and negatively. It affects me negatively in the sense that it presents challenges for me to deal with that “normal” people don’t face. For example, when I set plans, I expect those plans to be fulfilled. However, when my plans break suddenly I feel frustrated. However, the challenged I face with Autism are two-fold in the sense that I am able to overcome challenges. I strongly believe that a life without challenges is boring but we grow through tough times, not comfort. There’s no mountain high enough! Obstacles are what you see when you lose sight of your goal. Your struggle is your story and your story is your superpower!
What are your autism strengths?
One way Autism makes me unique is that it gives me steel-like determination. In the past, I faced employment-related and social challenges that left me often feeling discouraged. I lacked a sense of belonging, I felt marginalized, unsupported and not understood. BUT-I looked into various supports in Toronto that helped me overcome my employment related challenges and presently, I’m very happy both personally and professionally. So challenges do not faze me, I do not sit around thinking “why is this happening to me?” I simply see it as another hurdle to overcome and become better, stronger than ever before! Furthermore, I am very loyal because I feel that true loyalty is hard to come by in this world. As somebody wise once said, “you be the change you wish to see in this world.”
What are some things that are hard for you?
A lot of the struggles that I have faced involved difficulties socializing and keeping jobs. I was bullied as a child and as a consequence, I developed a nervous personality. I may read into things that are not there to read into. In short, I overthink sometimes. As far as my employment challenges go, in the past I lost jobs without understanding why. I didn’t know why it happened or when it would end! But I reached out to JVS Toronto and Youth Employment Services, two nonprofit organizations that help marginalized people find and keep meaningful employment. Since then I gained new insight and perspective that helped me grow both personally and professionally.
What role has your family played in your autism journey?
Yes they have. They always encourage me to go after my goals and not let anything stop me.
Has your life been impacted by Coronavirus? What are your some of your goals and hope for the future?
Yes my life has been impacted by Coronavirus. It led me to work my part time job at Shoppers Drug Mart in liberty Village over the weekends. I love Liberty Village because it has great energy! It’s a very family oriented and dog friendly neighborhood and it also has a lot of great restaurants to eat at. It also led me to the full time career job I’m working now at Markham Flooring (a hardwood flooring company).
What advice would you give to a person, recently diagnosed with autism, wondering what the future holds for them?
Never give up, never surrender! Don’t let the world tell you who you are, YOU tell the world who YOU are!