Speaking out for autism awareness
Bundaberg 12-year-old Summer Farrelly is proving that anything and everything is possible for someone who lives with autism by sharing her passion for chicken art and therapeutic chickens.
Summer told her story to Bundaberg Now as part of World Autism Month.
Her message is that with the right support and community understanding, anything is possible.
Summer has a website Chickens to Love and a Facebook page that promote her distinctive chicken art.
“A chicken’s love does not discriminate. They make me feel loved, needed and special,” says Summer.
The “chicken whisperer” adds: “The program is based on the bond and trust I had built (and continue building) within my several chicken flocks.
“It's also based on observations made on chicken body language, social hierarchy and communication tones between my chicken flocks, and when I interact with them.
“I received international attention for being the first chicken program focusing on developing social skills for those on the autism spectrum.
“With help from my community a coop was built for me at a local ability centre.
“This gave members of the community, especially those with learning and physical challenges, access to my program.
“I believe everyone should feel loved, be loved and valued.
“My Mum, myself and my brothers all have an autism diagnosis. We treat our autism as our superpower, we focus on what we can do, not what we cannot do.
“The common interest in chickens has brought our family closer together. I want to help and empower others and cultivate self esteem and self worth.”
The website sells artwork, mugs, books and offers “Community Sensory Bags”, which are free to use without postage.
“Many families such as mine at times are unprepared for arising situations at community events or accessing general everyday activities outside their home environment,” Summer says.
“Surrounding music or conversation maybe too loud, the sun maybe to bright, you may have forgotten fidget toys that distract and calm or a timer that is used to indicate an activity is finished.
“The sensory bags can be borrowed for the length of the event or activity being accessed, then bags are returned for the next person to borrow.
“These bags are provided free of charge in efforts to break down social barriers that individuals with sensory challenge face on a regular basis.”
Writing on Facebook this week, Summer said: “A few years ago for the first time I felt like there was something wrong with me, I didn't fit in with the kids at school, I found it hard to follow and join in conversations because I didn't have an understanding about my peers interests of music, clothing brands, soap stars and teenage celebrity interests.
“I didn't understand sarcasm or jokes that were obvious to everyone else.
“Autism is invisible that's why it’s hard for others to understand, that my brain is wired differently.
“My friends were people who they would consider ‘old’ … I prefer to call them wiser 😊.
“They are people who have a passion for the community or who enjoy spending time outside in the environment with animals.
“My chickens became my friendship circle they made me feel special, needed and their friendship was and is unconditional.
“A wise person I admire a lot who has a majestic beard said to me: ‘Summer you are ahead of your time, sometimes just being you can push people out of their comfort zones, they are not ready to understand or embrace what you create and work towards, one day they will catch up and understand, don’t stop being you’.
“Those words gave me much comfort. I’m now 12 years old , my journey has given me confidence, and I feel like I’m making a difference and creating a understanding about diffences in my community.
“I love and embrace the uniqueness about me.”
Summer’s positive attitude has received local and international attention.
She has been asked to join several community committees this year and advises on how to incorporate a sensory friendly environment.
She is also involved with Community Lifestyle Support, Animal Therapies and Yellow Ladybugs.
Summer attends distance education through Rockhampton.
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