As part of Autism Awareness Month, local resident Shaun Watson is sharing his story about how his diagnosis has helped him navigate day to day life.
The local photographer decided to participate in an assessment for himself after his son was diagnosed with autism.
He said finding out he had Autism Spectrum Disorder came as a relief and provided an understanding of why he lives the way he does and how he can use his condition to benefit the work he does within the community.
“It is kind of a relief to be diagnosed and I am not surprised but I am actually quite empowered by that as I can see there are a lot of positives to take from that,” Shaun said.
“I want to raise awareness about what it is like, what it is and what it means to be autistic.
“I am very passionate about this subject as my son is autistic as well but there are a lot of very creative qualities we have.
“We are out of the box thinkers generally and you wouldn’t really know it unless you ask someone.
“We are just like everyone else.
“We just think a little bit outside the box.”
Shan said the diagnosis had presented its challenges and was the first person to acknowledge that sometimes simple tasks might take a bit more time and effort.
“Having autism does challenge me as I can get very distracted quite easily, and so I need to have my list and checkboxes next to the list and make sure I run through them in order and keep my priorities in check,” he said.
“The other thing I’ve noticed that it affects me as I tend to tell stories halfway through, the first half will start in my head and then I’ll jump into the second part which can be very frustrating for others.
“I have been really trying to focus on making sure I am aware and start the story at the beginning.
Not letting his diagnosis become a barrier, Shaun left his job as an early childhood educator to work on his passion of photography.
“For the last three years I was an early year’s educator which was a great experience,” he said.
“I decided to step away from that and focus on my photography business and study this full time to enhance my skills.
“As far as how autism affects my work, it comes down to making sure I am focused and making sure things are organised.”
Shaun and his wife have also bought their skillsets together to start Evolve Integrative Wellbeing, a creative counselling service that allows children to be comfortable with who they are.
“My wife is a creative counsellor who supports children through creative arts and music therapy, working with children with autism and other neurodevelopmental needs,” he said.
“We have put our heads together and developed this program to support children in meaningful ways and to provide them with a space for them to be comfortable to be who they are.
“We have had experiences with our son ourselves going through these therapies and there was a significant focus on changing him to fit into a world around him, whereas with this approach we want to come from a place of meeting children within their world so they can thrive and grow with confidence.”
While Shaun knows being autistic can present challenges in day to day life, he still encourages anyone else living with autism to be proud of themselves.
“From lived experience, I know how it can feel to be misunderstood and forced to fit into a world you don’t belong, so creative arts was a huge source of coping for me growing up and a gift I want to share with the next generation of children,” he said.
“I just want to say to all the autistic people out there be bold, be proud of yourselves and don’t ever feel the need to ever apologise for it.”
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