Friday, 26 April 2013

2009 - Leadership article

The article that follows was written by me in 2009 when I was just starting to think that I might write something serious.  I don't know that this is true for other authors but this is how it worked with me.  Only the lonely people can share the pain of being alive but not part of society.  The act of writing gets all the sad things down.  You think there is only yourself until others agree with your words.

Learning to Care and Not Fear Failure
(First published in the Student Leaders e-zine, November 2009)
Hi, I am Ben. Over the years I have not been able to express my thoughts and dreams because I have not been ready to share them with others. People have not always wanted to communicate with me because of some of my behaviours.

Over the last couple of years I have been on a journey of realising people are interested in me, my life and my dreams. It has opened up a whole new life for me. Now instead of being angry and resentful I want to help other young people to fulfill their potential by sharing my story with them. You wouldn’t believe how liberating that feeling is, to know that I have a lot to contribute.

How do you think it feels to know you are just a normal person with normal feelings, but people treat you like all you have is a disability? Trust me, it makes you feel worthless and like you have no power or control over your own destiny. It is not a good feeling.

However, I don’t feel like this anymore. Over the last year I have changed my focus from life being all about me, to me now considering others, caring about other people and wanting to give them a voice. I really feel this is what my vision should be. 

How has this change come about you may ask? Not an easy question to answer. But here are some of the reasons. 

At my school we have a very diverse senior program with many different subjects and staff . This means I have been exposed to a lot of new ideas and people and have seen how different people act in different situations. I have been able to determine the kind of person I want to be.  The selfish kind, who is only interested in themselves and what they can get, or the kind who wants to help others and will go out of their way to make others' dreams come true, even if it is inconvenient for them to help. This second kind of person is, to me, a person who shows true leadership qualities and is the kind of person I aspire to be. 

My school also provides programs that allow students to develop leadership qualities. Our Scouting program has the underlying values of service to others through friendship, responsibility, trustworthiness, courtesy, respect for others and caring for the world we live in.  We are given the opportunity to further develop these skills through the Leo Club, a young version of Lions, and through the WhyTry programme that teaches social and emotional skills.

I think what has helped me the most is the opportunity I have been given to try new things and not be afraid of failure. I used to be so anxious about doing the wrong thing but now I know one learns the most from one’s mistakes. 

To be a true leader you must be prepared to take some risks. But you must also be willing to take responsibility if things go wrong. I am finally able to do this and I have so many more opportunities as a result. 

Recently I received a Caltex award for contribution to the school. I stood in front of a roomful of people with my family and school teachers and principal in the audience.  I felt so proud that I was chosen for this award. Next year I am going on a leadership training day with other school leaders and I’m looking forward to hearing their opinions.  Being involved in all these things is amazing and I would never have believed them possible in years gone by. 

Who would have thought a non-verbal boy with autism would one day be a leader in his school community with big plans and dreams for his future?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

2009 - my first poem

I want to tell people about how bad it is to have no voice and how writing songs and poems helps.

The poems allow me to say things I would probably not say in normal conversations.  The real truth is that I would be afraid to say some things just in normal talk.

The start of my writing was just in my head.  Then in 2009 I actually put words down.

This was my first try at poetry:

I Am A Bit Autistic But A Normal Kid 
Think about all the people you know 
I am one of them. 
I am a bit autistic but just a normal kid. 
I am everywhere that you are 
I am a member of the community too.
I am where you are.
I go to the same places. 
I am interested in the same things. 
I read the same books. 
I visit the same places. 
I am just like you but I am autistic too. 
I am a normal kid I like the things you do. 
I listen to your music and learn your songs. 
And now you can learn mine. 
I am a bit autistic but I am a normal kid. 
I am interested in life and you are interesting too. 
I am a bit autistic and a normal kid like you. 
And wherever you are there am I too. 
I am all over the world and in everyplace. 
I see the things you see
I worry about what you are thinking of me. 
I am a different person but just a normal kid. 
I am a bit autistic but I am just a normal kid like you. 
I think there's too much attention on my autism
and not enough on me.

 (First published in “Bayside Sailability Dispatches” November 2009)