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For all of my childhood I had (and continue to have this day) challenges with learning, socialising and experiencing life in a way that was typically expected of me. It’s not that I was necessarily deficient for the most part in those areas; it’s more rather that I do all of those things mentioned in my own individual way. Initially all of my challenges were diagnosed as a part of my severe anxiety disorder. Though at the age of 15 I was diagnosed with autism, and then I got an additional diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at 16 years.

My most significant diagnoses were unfortunately given to me when I was in my final years of high school. As a result of that I missed out on much early intervention. Most of the lessons I attended were hard for me to understand because they weren’t given according to how I personally absorb information. However I purposely left out the word “learn” prior to “absorb information” because in truth I do remember a typical amount of facts (as well as helpful strategies) given to me in all of the classes I attend. The hardest thing for me was attempting to apply all of knowledge.

During a 90 minute English class in 2006 I couldn’t really understand anything my teacher was telling me. Though in that hour and a half I had enough time to ponder over just what was frustrating me so much. I came to the conclusion of realising that I can learn, and enjoy doing lessons if they are both given to me in a way I can understand, as well as being linked (at least in part) to a topic that I find interesting.

After I graduated from school I hadn’t achieved enough qualifications to study or have a job. I was also in such a state emotionally and cognitively which as well made study and career impossible at that time. Yet I could still work in my own way at home, and I chose to keep up the routine that I developed at school by giving myself lessons of my own.

These lessons were done with the hope of me gaining what I had missed from school, as well as building on and strengthening areas where I do have an interest and passion for. At that time I had been exposed to so much distracting information and confusion that my true interests and passions were seemingly buried and lost forever. However I found through experimentation that there was a method that enabled my true passions to resurface, and I discovered that they hadn’t indeed changed or weakened since the very beginning of my life.

I rediscovered my true passion from giving myself many different classes, each involving a topic of any kind under the sun! If I found the topic hard to understand and/or boring I knew that it wasn’t a passion. Thus I eliminated those topics from my list and wasted no more time on them. However when I discovered a topic that I found to be easy to understand and enjoyable (such as geography, history, philosophy, writing and art) I persisted with giving myself classes relating to them. Also, in each of those classes I would branch off into different areas of that topic, just so I could discover where exactly the passion comes from.

With geography I enjoy learning about different cultures and the ways in which people live their lives all across our world. So I watch travel documentaries to wind down, build places of the world on Minecraft as a mindfulness activity, and learn other languages. I also like writing material in my first language, and I have a strong wish to take my speaking and writing career across the world. That’s a delightful dream!

I enjoy history for the same reason as geography, given that it’s also about different ways of living life. My favourite kinds of art involve me building exact replicas of my favourite places of the world (or from history) in Minecraft and with Lego. Sketching experiences from within my mind and onto paper also allows me to feel like they’re more tangible (this is great for positive experiences I either remember or imagine).

After a year or two of continuing that process of giving myself classes I experienced my first thoughts of creating a network called Embrace Your Passion. This will be a place where people on all levels of the autism spectrum can participate in sessions personalised to their own rediscovered (or strengthened) passions. Members will see these passions with our initial self-discovery program which will involve the method of being given activities from all kinds of subject areas, and then eliminating those which aren’t so interesting personally to the individual.

From there we will guide our members to discover within themselves how to embrace their true passion, and use it in their life (whether for career, social or self-esteem purposes, depending on what they would like to do personally). This will be at our members’ own individual and non-pressured pace without a time limit. These discovery, social and fun sessions will at first be held via Zoom. Each session will have a maximum of 6 members, due to each person’s exploratory experience being tailored to their own individual passion.

Embrace Your Passion is the exact kind of network that I myself wish had existed when I felt depressive feelings as a teenager about school not being catered to my own needs, in order to reach my full potential. I’m hopeful that EYP will be a place that will enable people like myself to feel like they do have gifts to offer the world, in whichever way they choose. I’ve found through experience that knowing what our true passion is, and owning a metaphorical compass to see the direction we wish to go in our life increases our self-esteem and confidence a thousandfold!

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