See my ability, not my disability

As we mark their international day tomorrow, school leaver Charles Mury shares his views on how we should treat people with disability.

Image: Words of wisdom: Charles Mury with Hunter River Community School teacher Lucy Nielson.

Autism makes me different, and I like it. And you should, too, because people like me help the world to see things differently.

I am the vice-captain of Hunter River Community School. I am 18 years old and non-verbal. Until last year I had no way to communicate, and people thought I was dumb and stupid. I felt like I was underestimated and my world was very small.

But that’s all changed since I have started to communicate! Now I am able to share with everyone what I think and how I feel. I love it.

Finding my words through writing has let me show people how smart I am. For 17 years I lived in my own world but not anymore. I have just done my HSC and I am going to Newcastle Uni to study Advanced Maths next year. I am so excited.

But imagine if my abilities were not seen. Imagine if I was still stuck inside of myself. None of these exciting things would have happened and this is the reason why people should open their minds and look for what a person can do, not what they can’t.

Autism is a condition where you are different than the normal people. It affects millions of people across the world. There are many different stages of autism, ranging from mild to severe.

I have severe autism, but I do not see it as a disability. I see it as a great opportunity to overcome the judgement and attitudes associated with autism. I am so grateful to have autism. It means I am special. I have this amazing opportunity to spread awareness about autism.

Imagine being trapped inside a body where you know you are different. People are mean. They look. They talk about you, but most of all they laugh at you. Well, that is the reality that people face living with autism.

Autism feels like you are different. Your brain never turns off. I can never have a day without thinking about everything, so that is why I carry three iPads around because it helps regulate my emotions. You may think I am not paying attention, but I am. This is the same with many autistic students.

We have the ability to learn without directly sitting and listening, so do not be fooled. Kids living with autism need sensory help and tools. It's our biggest need other than respect.

I am now so happy I can communicate. I have only had this amazing ability for a short period, but it has changed my life in so many ways.

Treat all people with respect and dignity and most of all value them despite their disability. Be the person that can say you have changed a life, persevere and you will be rewarded. It will be the thing that you can look back at and say you have made a difference.

Charles Mury has accepted an early entry offer to study Advanced Mathematics next year at the University of Newcastle. Read more about the journey of Charles Mury.

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