My name is Liam, and I have Autism and mild Cerebral Palsy. This year I was lucky enough to be selected for the Future Leaders Programme run by the Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) based in Brisbane. This programme is aimed at developing the advocacy and self-advocacy skills of autistics. It involved an intensive online course, a three day residential training workshop in Brisbane and 50 hours of volunteer work. The people in charge of this course recommended that I do my volunteer work at Autism West in Fremantle. On the 1st August, I had an interview to see what I wanted to do. I had heard of Autism West, but I didn’t really know what they did. It turns out they do a lot, and I was invited to participate in a lot of it. The running joke at Autism West is everybody is running around frantically and they’re always trying to meet deadlines.
The next Wednesday I started work. I was nervous at first, but once I knew what to do, I was fine. Autism West is a very Autism friendly workplace. I guess the clue is in the name. They immediately gave me challenging tasks. I attended the Youth Advisory Council meetings (YAC group) which meets at the end of each month. The YAC group asked me to prepare and present a presentation on Self-Advocacy for people on the spectrum. The YAC explores issues that are relevant to them and their peers and advises the organisation. I volunteered every Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:30 doing clerical work and writing or proof-reading articles to their on-line newsletter. Autism West also encouraged me to volunteer with the various social groups run for different age groups. Of course, that meant getting my appropriate Police Clearance and Working with Children Checks. From 4:30 to 5:30 every Wednesday, I volunteered with the under eighteen social group. The group actually lasts for three hours, but I didn’t want to get home after dark. Fortunately, I was able to attend a number of full sessions with the over-eighteen social groups which meet on alternate Saturdays. These social groups go to places like Timezone, Mosman Park Bowling Club, AQWA, Ten-Pin Bowling, Ice-Skating and Kings Park. They also sometimes have activities in the Autism West Office, such as art or science projects.
I asked for my placement to be extended so I could be part of the Autism West Symposium in November in Perth. I prepared several interviews with symposium presenters and assisted with several of the break-out sessions. Despite the very busy schedule at Autism West, I’ve managed to keep up. I’ve got a lot out of the placement at Autism West. I’ve made some friends, I’ve developed more skills, I’ve developed more confidence and I’ve learned more about Autism.
I’m having so much fun I’ve decided to continue as a volunteer with them.
About Liam Dow-Hall:
Liam lives in Fremantle and is an Administration Assistant for RAC. Liam strives to try new things and lead an independent life.