19 October 2017 – Bethany Gray always felt she was different from people around her and wondered why. When she was 17 she was diagnosed as being autistic. This is her journey.
THE AUTISM diagnosis I received at 17 explained my difficulty in reading body language, understanding behaviours and communicating with others.
With the help of Enrich+ I have been able to explore, understand and begin to try new strategies to help me cope with my stress levels and manage new situations that I find myself in.
I had begun going to Youth+ every week where I found I didn’t have to watch everything I said and worry whether it was acceptable or not. It was here that I met Tanwen Ward who began to help me develop the strategies to cope with everyday life, creating my CV and helping me to apply for jobs. She was also vital in being my support person when finding information about Otago University for next year.
It was through the changes I was trying to make, for example going horse riding, beginning part time work at Columbus Café, gaining in confidence to speak to people I didn’t know, that Karen Sluter asked if I would talk at the Altogether Autism Conference, as it was on transitioning, which is what I was going through.
Even though I wasn’t sure about it at first, it was suggested it would be a great experience and that my own story could help others like me, plus someone said it would look good on my CV for university!
The conference did turn out to be a great experience and I felt that I had achieved something at the end of it. Some of the highlights were meeting lots of interesting people who understood some of the difficulties that I experience every day.
I enjoyed meeting the assistance dogs and talking to people who help train them. The food was good too! For the first time I enjoyed talking to people I didn’t know as I still had people around me that I knew and supported me. Overall it was a very positive experience and helped me gain more confidence in myself.
Since the conference I have enrolled in an adult gym class and have been accepted for Health Science at Otago University for 2018. This I hope to complete and go on to study medicine. My final goal is to become a surgeon. For the immediate future I am still working with Tanwen from Enrich+ to build on skills which will help me cope next year whilst at university.
The conference helped me to meet new people. For example, I met with John Vogenthaler from Te Pou to talk about the study he is presently undertaking. I also met Selwyn Cook, Workbridge ambassador, who could help me get some employment when I go down to Otago. It gave me the confidence to continue to go out of my comfort zone and try new things.
The main thing I would want people to know who didn’t attend the conference is that even though transitioning from school to adult life is extremely hard, and being autistic makes me feel I have a different operating system to normal people as I tend to see and experience things differently than what they do, I am not letting this stop me from letting me do what I want to do with my life.
I have gone through many changes and transitions through the last few years, and have learned to push myself out of my comfort zone. I know if I am going to succeed in life I need to work past feeling uncomfortable and wanting to be always on my own and learn how to handle everyday situations and life!