Monday, 21 October 2013

Guest Post from my Mentor Garry Burge

This week's post is my first guest post which is written by Garry Burge who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome 1998 by Dr Tony Attwood. Garry is heavily involved in Autism Advocacy and has started a group for Adults with Asperger's where he resides in Brisbane. Garry has been my mentor since he first contacted me a few months ago. Since then he has supported and encouraged me with my advocacy work, most notably helping me with creating a social group for Aspie Adults in Orange. His blog with further information about him and the great work that he and others are doing is here

Over the past month I have been in touch with other adults on the Autism Spectrum on skype. It is with great news that my contact with Ben Wilshire has been very productive. Ben is an adult on the Autism Spectrum based in Orange, New South Wales in Australia.  Ben like so many adults has a lot of potential and energy but finds the labor market a real struggle.  The many adults I come into contact with are finding employment support difficult. Either employment consultants from Disability Employment Agencies are not turning up, not getting back to clients or just unable to assist adults with Autism to get employment.  These factors have made me wonder whether the group I run and am  involved with should take action!  Is it possible that employers can be contacted with the positives of employing someone on the Autism Spectrum as possible?  The group now has many adults in attendance and it is hoped overtime that important responsibilities and commitments can be delegated. However this needs to be done in a way that brings out the potential of adults. 

Getting back to my earlier post concerning Ben in Orange.  I have worked with Ben to encourage him to take on an advocacy role and it is one that I believe he is doing very well. He now runs a group in Orange and this group is very important for rural New South Wales.  Regional Australia needs a big boost in terms of awareness and services for adults on the Autism Spectrum and Ben is doing a great job at providing a start.  The Brisbane and Orange groups are now working together and the Facebook group is now bringing in the help of others to spread the word of Autism and to work with the adults.  The group is a means of entering the Aspie world and for the outside world to see us positively and not as the often negative betrayal that is seen mostly in the media.  We have been somewhat disappointed that a newspaper article didn't go into the Courier Mail but there are more important things at the moment.  The work of Damian Santomauro is also important within Australia, especially Brisbane and like the many adults we have here, more of a focus on who we are and what we can achieve is essential.

The group in Brisbane has a lot of potential but currently I am trying to work through the many facets of a foundation base before important tasks need implementation.  The most important of these is dealing with the lack of services for adults.  Quite simply if you feel socially isolated and in need of friends, you have no choice but to put up with the 'me society' and to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist who will recommend medication or referral to some specialist who indicates that we are broken and need fixing.  Instead I would like to think that society needs fixing. A fixing in accepting Autism as a fact of life and to work with Autistic people rather than box or label them.  Of course this involves a lot of work but something that can be achieved with optimism. 

I would like to conclude by saying that I am working very hard with other adults to look at ways of moving this country forward in a positive direction with Autism.  It would be also good one day to entertain the idea of an Autism Act which was introduced into the UK Westminster Parliament and passed and that only needs a Member of Parliament to put forth a Private Member's Bill. Until then let us remain optimistic about the path forward.

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