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50 Years of being brilliantly different - by Thomas Kuzma

21 July 2017

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Welcome back to another episode of Aspire!

This past eek has been quite the feast for the mind and as an autistic man, it felt fantastic! One faithful Wednesday afternoon I took a trip into the city after my busy day at work. I spent my evening purchasing the latest Transformers Comics and tried to work out (let's face it if you're constantly distracted by Pokemon GO, you're only trying to work out). Looking at the time I dashed over to the Amora hotel to go to an Autism CRC networking meeting.

Walking in I was welcomed by a very charming board, then I dropped that piece of wood and met the CEO of Autism CRC. Now for those who don't know, I am a visual thinker; I recognize people's faces, but I am horrible at remembering names, that's why I haven't posted the name, just in case I am wrong. After a funny little awkward reintroduction I walked into the room to meet the members of the CRC.

From Adrian Ford to Scott Reading everyone graciously welcomed me. I noticed fellow mentor and Future youth Leader Malcom Mayfield across the room; we met up and started talking about video games. TO my surprise more Future Youth Leaders were there! Alexandra Robinson and Emma Gallagher were there chatting it up with Judy Brewer AO.

We all gathered together and swapped many stories about our adventures since the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in 2013. Alex and Emma are in happy relationships (not with each other!) and Emma has been volunteering at Aspect as a research assistant volunteer. Malcom Mayfield has been successfully running his business called Autism Star.

As the night went on I worked the room, and I had some really nice conversations with the people around the room. I was so happy to see someone else really enjoyed one of my favourite films, 'The Intouchables.'

I saw that someone had brought in a pet greyhound and I had to restrain my self from running over and petting the lovely dog. Five minutes later I was on my knees patting the patient and lovable pet. It turns out this cool, calm and collected caning was an assistance dog. The owner was a lovely lady that had anxiety and autism. Her dog has helped her through so much throughout life and we started a discussion on companion/assistance dogs. It turns out that greyhounds make great assistance pets due to their amazing focus and attention.

The night started to calm down and after a thrilling discussion with Aspies and Autism CRC members, Malcom, a new aspie, and I went to grab Swiss ice-cream and then parted ways. I, myself, went home to find out more about Pokemon Go and eventually go to sleep.

The next day I arose, dressed in one of my many luxurious shirts and fancy pants and travelled into the city. I reached Establishment and made my way upstairs to the hall where I would set up the show!

I welcome incoming guests and had the honour of meeting someone that had an important part in Aspects history. Ian Barnett, nephew of Dr Andrew Vern Barnett was Autism Spectrum Australia's first solicitor.

i went on to learn how important the early days school were to the world of autism. Helen told me how Dr Andrew Vern Barnett was a larger than life man that wanted to see a change in the world for his autistic daughter Susan.

The effort thrown into the first few years was nothing less than astronomical, but through vigorous fundraising and with help from government bodies the School was funded and they built the school. The school opened 1971 with an outstanding opening to which the Prime Minister, Hon William McMahon came to.

After listening to the tale of how Aspect began, I thanked them for being here and I continued with greeting people to the event. The ever so talented principals entered and suddenly I remember why we had stood strong for all these years. Looking at Gio Gulli, Bruce Rowell, Rowena Perritt, and Liz Murray I thought about how we didn't just have managers, that we had leaders that helped us reach our full potential over this half-century.

Out of nowhere John Doyle appeared! People from Lithgow like us do that. We had a nice quick chat before the proceedings start and I felt so thankful that we had a patron like John. We talked about the Lithgow Mercury and creative processes and before I knew it he had flown off to speak with guests.

Saying hello to the Autism CRC again I bumped into Judy Brewers AO's fantastic husband Tim Fischer AC. Telling him about my journey to independence was ever so exciting but we had to part ways as the show was getting on the road.

john Doyle started off the events talking about his life with his sister and how he was introduced to Aspect. John MC'ed the event and introduced our extraordinary CEO.

Adrian Ford took the stage and talked to us about Aspect's values, its mission and how the organisation has helped make Australia a better place for people on the spectrum for the past 50 years.

As the lunchtime continued John interview David Foster who is Aspect's longest-serving board member. Peter Werner and Elizabeth Gadek, the National Operations Director. I got to say there are some impressive titles there.

After learning more about Aspect's history john went on to interview Angus Hamill from our Central Coast School. Now he isn't Mark Hamill's son, but he did give an interesting perspective on what it's like to live with autism. When he said hello to the audience I accidentally blurted out 'hello' a little too loud. Luckily for me, only the people at the table heard me.

As we ate lunch Camila Lane and her father serenaded us perfectly, singing two pleasant and charming songs. Lastly, to round out the event, Julie Hamblin thanked John Doyle for all his years of being a patron for Aspect. As a gift to say thank you we had an artist paint an incredible portrait of John Doyle.

Over I believe these events were very good. They were executed very well without any technical difficulties or interruptions, I cannot wait to see what the next 50 years have in store for us. Well, Folks, I've hit that one thousand mark, and it is time for me to say farewell........See you all next week!

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