HUMANS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM 

At I CAN Network, we believe in the power of storytelling. Since 2016, we have been running an annual campaign called Humans on the Autism Spectrum, through which we celebrate the personal stories and insights of Autistics in our network. 

“YOU ARE MORE CAPABLE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE” 

Max, Senior Mentor I CAN Network 

2020

For the last five years, we have had the privilege of highlighting many Autistic voices, including young people who are new to our I CAN mentoring programs, those who have been with us for years, mentors, teachers and advocates.

In 2020, we are especially proud to have partnered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme to deliver Humans on the Autism Spectrum: School Leavers. From early April to mid-June, we showcased experiences, insights and advice from ten Autistic members of our team who are navigating post-school life, including TAFE, university, the workplace and community. Their stories contain messages which are relevant not only for younger Autistic peers but for anyone wanting to understand Autistic lived experience.

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MAX WILLIAMS

“You are more capable than you think you are.” 

Since 2014, mentor Max Williams has been at the core of our I CAN team, mentoring hundreds of Autistic young people over the years and never failing to share his distinctive sense of humour, strength in the face of adversity and pride in being Autistic.
In this video interview, Max shares his insights on overcoming hurdles in life, adjusting to university life, the importance of Autistic strengths and how he manages to remain optimistic amid challenging times. WATCH MAX’S INTERVIEW

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ayesha carson

“The only person who should say what I can or cannot do is me.” – Ayesha

Ayesha Carson embodies the I CAN spirit. She’s a former mentee who gained so much from the support and encouragement she received through I CAN that she was motivated to become a mentor herself.

In this video interview, Ayesha shares her experiences and advice on navigating post-school life, highlights the challenges of masking and interpreting unwritten social rules, and explains the importance of self-acceptance and embracing your differences. WATCH AYESHA’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

sam rose

“I wanted to become an I CAN mentor so that I could be someone I needed when I was in high school.” 

Since joining our team last year, Sam has become “that someone” for so many Autistic mentees by helping them feel understood, accepted and celebrated. Sam is also an integral part of our efforts to provide meaningful support for Queer (LGBTIQA+) Autistic young people.

In this video interview, Sam shares their experiences of navigating the ups and downs of high school, what fuels their passion for their current university studies and why identities can be so dynamic and exciting to explore. WATCH SAM’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

TIM CHAN

I am excited to be part of the self-advocacy movement to drive Autism to a new level of relevance and inclusion.” – Tim

What a privilege it is to have Tim Chan as an Ambassador for I CAN Network. Tim has been a part of our I CAN family since our earliest days and continues to make his mark as an advocate.

In 2014, at age 18, he was the first non speaking Autistic to deliver a TEDx talk and last year, he released his autobiography, Back From The Brink. Tim also plays a meaningful role in several other Autism and disability-related organisations across Australia.

In this powerful video, Tim shares his journey from a high school student who battled years of exclusion and self-doubt to a university student who is embracing his strengths in an inclusive environment whilst growing in confidence as an advocate. WATCH TIM’S INTERVIEW

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CAITLIN DOWNIE-KEMPSON

You can actually do the things that you want to do. The only person who limits you is yourself.”

Caitlin was one of our first high school mentees way back in 2014, a time when she didn’t believe in her own capabilities and didn’t have links to Autistic role models and peers. Now as an I CAN Mentor for the past five years she has helped many Autistic young people say “I CAN”.

In this video interview, Caitlin shares her journey from a struggling student in high school to someone who made it to university as a mature age student, shares what inspired her to become a mentor and reveals why she’s so proud to be Autistic. Click on the image below to watch Caitlin’s video. WATCH CAITLIN’S INTERVIEW

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MADI KENNA

“I’m so glad I found the I CAN Network. It’s amazing to find so many people who are as passionate about Autism Acceptance as I am.”

Since I CAN Network launched in 2013, several of our awesome I CAN mentees have gone on to paid employment as I CAN Mentors. Madi Kenna holds the distinction of being the first mentee from our online group mentoring program to do so — as well as being one of our youngest mentors. One of Madi’s key roles is as an Assistant Mentor working with Network Leaders Sam and Christian in the delivery of our online group for Queer Autistic teens.

In this brief video interview, Madi shares how she’s found her place in distance education, the importance of her own personal I CAN Network and what she’s doing to change the narrative on Autism.  WATCH MADI’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

RYAN FREEMANTLE

“I now have the chance to help the younger generation understand that Autism is not a scary thing and I can encourage them to identify their own strengths.” – Ryan

Ryan Freemantle is a wonderful example of someone who has used his own positive experience as an I CAN mentee as inspiration to become a mentor himself and serve the community in many meaningful ways. A key part of our Goulburn Murray team, Ryan brings a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy to his mentor role. Mentees especially enjoy hearing about his volunteer work with the CFA (Country Fire Authority) and his lively recounting of events!

In this brief video interview, Ryan shares some of his experiences in high school, his very cool career aspirations and offers encouragement to other Autistic young people.  WATCH RYAN’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

JAKE HOLLAND

“Standing out in a crowd is actually a good thing. Now I ain’t saying stand out like a leprechaun in a bunch of business suits. But do something different. It’s better to actually be different as no one gets through life just acting like everyone else because no one is going to recognise them that way.” – Jake

Jake Holland’s unique sense of humour and authenticity make him a captivating presenter. It’s hard to believe that the very engaging student who addressed the Department of Education last June and then took the stage in front of  300+ people at our I CAN AWETISM 2020 Expo in September was once an extremely reluctant public speaker. Jake Holland has used his involvement in the I CAN Network – as a longtime mentee and now as a trainee mentor – to build his confidence and continue to seize new challenges.

In this brief video interview, Jake explains how he ended up being interviewed by The Age for a national newspaper storypays tribute to his #1 supporter and shares his secrets for managing stage fright. WATCH JAKE’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

LACHLAN PEACH

“Through I CAN and being a mentee, I got a lot more courageous and a lot more willing to do stuff I never thought I would even consider engaging in.” – Lachlan

During our South West Victoria team’s 2017 video rendition of “You Can’t Ask That!”, Lachlan Peach delivered this classic insight: No, I don’t think I’ll grow out of my Autism. Autism is a part of me. If I’m gonna grow, it’s gonna grow with me.’ Lachlan’s journey from I CAN mentee to mentor has been marked by immense growth — in his confidence, his own Autistic identity and his ability to encourage younger Autistics with his positive outlook and chilled out humour.

In this brief video interview, Lachlan explains how Autistic peers and role models have helped him develop confidence and pride, offers advice for Autistic young people who are contemplating post-school life and shares why he aspires to go into teaching one day.  WATCH LACHLAN’S INTERVIEW

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KITARNA – GOULBURN MURRAY

 “You can do this. You are awesome who you are.”

Kitarna, a 17-year-old mentee in the Goulburn Murray (VIC) region, is changing the way her peers and community view Autism. Surrounded by negative narratives for years, she has rejected the naysayers and instead has embraced herself and those around her with a positive energy which inspires. A defining moment of I CAN’s 2019 Regional Awetism Expo was when Kitarna took to the stage to share her personal I CAN story with authenticity and passion. At the end, a student from another school called out in admiration, “When are you running for Prime Minister?!”

In this brief video interview, Kitarna shares how she developed self-acceptance amid such negative messages about Autism, pays tribute to the teacher who made such a difference in her outlook and offers advice to other Autistic young people who also want to say, “Yes, I CAN.” WATCH KITARNA’S INTERVIEW

Humans on the Spectrum

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