Dreams do come true!
Richard, who has autism, has told me so many times, “I’d love to go to university like my sister and my cousins”. I’ve always replied, “you will find your own path”.
Last week, Richard was busy memorising a script for a series of short videos being shot by the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Thanks to Richard’s fabulous agents at ICACM, he is playing the part of an Engineering student who has autism! (Michael Turkic and William Uy Vu Le you are amazing!)
Just as he wished, Rich did go to Sydney Uni, and he referred to his script as his “homework”. He put in 100% effort and I’m so impressed by his commitment to learning his lines! (it’s actually not that easy!)
This was a first for Rich and I couldn’t have been more proud! He really had no reference point for this experience as acting was never on his radar, this has all evolved from his public speaking experiences!
Huge kudos to Sydney University’s Dr Ilektra Spandagou and Dr Michelle Bonati for choosing to employ someone with autism to play the part of an autistic student in their video series. It may well have been easier for them to hire an actor to play the part, but being specialists in inclusive education, they walk the talk. No lip service in this department, they wanted the real deal! I was so proud of him, I know that he was a little nervous but he did not lose his cool, and it was a wrap well before the scheduled finish time!
This experience has had a huge effect on Richard’s self-esteem, the value of which is priceless. I saw with my own eyes how he walked taller that day – because he felt successful; he had a goal which he worked towards and he also he earned good money. With his payment, he bought his next air ticket to visit his sister on the Gold Coast. Over the past few days, if you bumped into Richard, you would have heard the full story, he was bursting with pride!
His fellow cast members Oliver and Kelly were very encouraging and put Richard at ease very quickly. The crew was wonderful, guiding Richard the whole way and of course, Ilektra and Michelle were so accommodating, the entire team helped Richard succeed!
This is all in stark contrast to his initial foray into the workforce. Following the completion of Richard’s Transition to Work Programme, he started working at a tennis club and we were so thrilled that he found employment. Unfortunately, this did not work out and he left this job. We were initially quite disheartened, but clearly this was not the job for him.
Why? Because Richard is VERY social and loves to interact. Despite significant support, the position itself did not suit as it involved Richard working on his own. It was also a menial, labour intensive and repetitive role, which just did not interest him. While he was ‘on the job’ he was assessed, and scored very poorly. In simple terms, this meant that Richard could not hold down a job in open employment. There was no consideration taken into the fact that Richard had no interest in this job.
We thought about what Richard enjoyed doing. He loves to talk and he loves people so we worked on his public speaking skills and his story, and eventually he started receiving invitations to speak at schools. He has prepared an engaging and motivating speech titled “I’m Just Like Everyone Else”. The response to his speech is always so positive, he connects and engages with his audience. Initially his speaking engagements were unpaid but now that he is experienced, all his appearances are paid. He has spoken at several schools and conferences and now he even has an agent acting on his behalf. Thank you Michael and William, ICACM is a perfect fit for Richard!
The point of this post is – not to be disheartened if ‘traditional employment’ or a first job does not work out. Find out what your child or student is interested in or does well and nurture those skills and interests. Think outside the box. Richard will not be a ‘nine to fiver’; those jobs do not suit him.
Today I received an email requesting that both Richard and I speak at a high school next month. We look forward to spreading our message of inclusion at Moriah College. I strongly believe that in order to change the world, we have to start with our youth; which is why I am passionate about presenting in schools. I can’t wait to give Rich the good news, I know that he will be thrilled!!!
I really can’t wait to see Richard achieve more of his goals! Dreams really can and do come true!
To book Richard and/or me to speak at your school, email me at randa@RandaHabelrih.com