Bundaberg's Summer Farrelly has been recognised for her ongoing support work for autistic children and teens as a finalist for the 7News Young Achiever Awards.
The 14-year-old autism advocate, artist, innovator and chicken whisperer said she felt honoured to be acknowledged in the awards, having made it to the finals in the Woman Empowering Other and Health and Wellbeing categories.
To add to her growing list of achievements, Summer has become a recognised and valued contributor within the animal assisted learning/therapy platforms, joining leading national and international speakers at the Animal Therapies LTD Conference and the Nourishing Online Conference.
She has recently started her journey as a junior handler for K9 Assistance Australia with her black labrador, Onyx.
The partnership will provide the strength needed to navigate life as an autistic teen who faces daily challenges of self-harm, anxiety, depression, trauma and self-regulation.
“Onyx has supported me as I stepped out of my comfort zone, as I push through sensory, social and anxiety barriers,” Summer said.
“Onyx has given me the ability to experience things I would never have attempted to do by myself.”
Summer is documenting her K9 Assistance Australia (K9AA) journey to give a different perspective, through an autistic lens, and provide a deeper insight into animal and human connection through micro communication.
This information will help K9AA create a more inclusive service delivery ensuring needs of both handler and canine are met.
Summer's mission started with her love of chickens
It's not the first time Summer has worked with animals.
She started her mission of support with Chickens to Love, a program that she created to help autistic and neurodivergent people develop their understanding of social dynamics, their own and others emotions and more.
“I wrote my program in a way that gave neurotypicals a bird's eye view from an autistic perspective, bridging a gap and creating understanding,” she said.
“Chickens have a way of seeing into your heart and filling it with happy.”
In the last four years Summer said she had continued her work with chickens and other furry and feathered characters, sharing her personal insight into the benefits of human and animal connection.
She said she had often stepped out of her comfort zone, with the help of her animals, to share vulnerable, raw and real moments of life challenges faced by young autistic teens in hope to educate and inspire others.
“Some of us are able to connect with animals on a level that many people do not understand,” Summer said.
“This connection is not forced, it's not something that you can learn, it's something that just is.
“Animals help calm, help inclusion, help fill hearts that feel empty and help rebuild lives.”
To find out more about Summer and to follow her journey, head to her Facebook page here.
Summer's work with K9 Assistance Australia can be viewed here.
Other stories: Summer Farrelly awarded for animal therapies