Identify the individual, not their Asperger’s by: Faith Valencia
When a person is diagnosed with Autism, or Asperger’s it becomes difficult for them to be seen as who they are rather than their disability. Programs are in place to help those diagnosed with these disabilities at the Griffith University Autism Centre of Excellence. Tailoring the experience to the individual is important when finding a program that is beneficial to them. No two people are diagnosed the same way, and their treatment and aid offered to them is the same.
Adrienne Costin, a spokesperson for the Griffith University, Autism Centre of Excellence, says that this individualisation of a person is key to improving their quality of life.
“Every individual has their unique style and support needs. Our services aim to identify and cater for the needs of the individual. The programs we deliver are specifically catered to a particular demographic or developmental level to optimise the individual outcomes from the programs,” she explains.
“All programs offered at Autism Queensland are designed to improve the individual’s overall engagement and quality of life across all life spans,” she explains.
Costin continues by highlighting the importance of community involvement in the treatment of Asperger’s.
“It is beneficial to empower an individual with ASD through education on their diagnosis so that they are well equipped knowledge as well as promoting self-efficacy. Furthermore, community education is beneficial as this also increases awareness, in turn promoting a more inclusive society,” she says.
“The current services offered by AQ include speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychology education, assessment and therapy sessions, Autism consultancy, and specifically tailored group programs including Mind your Moves, Cool Conversations, Senior Survival Skills, Studio G, Teen Tech Shed, Girls Guide to Ruling the Internet, and Fun Friends and Feelings. These programs are specifically designed for certain age groups to address various social and developmental aspects that attribute to an overall increased quality of life,” Costin says.
Shenice Portelli is twenty-one years old and was overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings when she was first diagnosed with Asperger’s, but under no circumstances has she allowed her disability to define who she is, or others.
“I have met a few people with Asperger’s and autism. I get along with them well even though we have similar traits. I say to people just because we have the same disability doesn’t mean we are the same. We all have different interests, likes and personalities that makes us who we are,” Shenice says.
Shenice was diagnosed during her first year of high school in 2009.
“I was so against having a disability, [I] didn’t want to know of it or hear about it anymore” Shenice says.
“I honestly didn’t like it. It felt like they had to put a label and be done with it. I felt like a tin on a shelf. I found it really hard to accept my disability. It took me a very long time to accept [it]. I was very stubborn and against it.”
Despite the shock of the diagnosis and reluctance to accept it she did not let it get to her.
“Mum said to me, as I will always remember. If you don’t accept it things will get harder but if you accept it, it gets easier” Shenice recalls.
Her inner strength shines through as she fights stereotypes and refuses to let her disability define her.
“I kept to myself in school and focus on my school work. I didn’t [have] many friends growing up, only a few. The closest friends I ever had was a group of mates at the Multi-learning Centre (MLC), and I honestly thought I would have no friends. I felt people looked at me differently because I was different, but I didn’t let it get [the] better of me. I stayed true and saw my strengths and weaknesses.”