My name is Daniel I am 28, I am the Impact and Insight Officer at The Change Foundation and I have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). For the whole of my school life, I was always told by my school and parents that I would not be able to do much with my life. No one really showed any interest in me and what impact their words were having on me. I was surrounded by other young people with disabilities but was just lost in a crowd of different needs. Luckily, that environment and lack of support had the opposite effect on me, and I put all my energy during school life into sport. This was the only worthwhile opportunity that was open to me.
That is when I met The Change Foundation, a then cricket charity, that came into my school offering adapted cricket with lots of opportunities for skills and personal development. The Coach Mentors were so different from all the teachers and anyone else in my life. They spoke to me like I mattered and like my voice was important. Over my years as a participant, I got more opportunities than I had ever got in my life which gave me the chance to grow, get my coaching qualifications, deliver sessions myself and eventually gain full time employment in the area I love the most, measuring the impact of our programmes.
My desire for independence came as a shock to my parents who relied on me for support with my siblings and the running costs for the house, but I had to start making choices for myself, rather than what made them comfortable. This was the time I knew I had to leave the family home and start a new chapter for myself, rather than worry about how it would affect others. It was the push from home I needed and on refection, yes this was a hard time for me and my family but was also one of my greatest opportunities as I was able to work fulltime at The Change Foundation and realise that I was good enough, I could build a career, it was ok to dream big, it was ok to escape the pressure and negativity I was surrounded by and that my ASD was a part of me not a barrier.
Living on my own was very lonely at first, going from a very big family home, to a flat for one. But slowly I started to build connections with friends and meeting people online. It sounds small, but it was the first time I could finally get an internet connection which changed my life, being a gamer. I love video games so much and I could now go online and make friends all over the world which really helped with my own social skills and I could then take to the workplace which helped me develop even more.
Today I still live with my fiancé, have a group of friends and a job that I love doing. Looking back on these past 10 years, it is not bad for someone that could not leave the house on his own and was told he would not amount to much. So, my advice to anyone with ASD that has a life like I had is don’t give up and don’t let people put you down. Find your sport or activity, it will unlock more that you will ever know.