A positive attitude and self-celebration pave the way to meaningful connections
Charlie is a vibrant South Australian teen with a zest for life. As a student in Year 10, Charlie manages to beautifully blend her passions in cookery, visual art and sport with an undeniable authenticity. Although her present is filled with achievements and optimism, her past was not without its hurdles.
Charlie is a proud individual with autism and ADHD who identifies as nonbinary. Her story reflects her personal growth through self-awareness, the significance of reaching out for support, expressing her needs and aspirations, and turning her challenges into steppingstones.
Supportive pathways to growth
Earlier in her life, Charlie now 16, grappled with social communication, certain academic tasks, and emotional regulation. Building friendships was particularly challenging as she often found it tough to discern appropriate conversational topics. She also had challenges with her fine motor skills. However, once the right supports were put in place, these challenges turned into pathways of growth.
A tailored network of services through the NDIS, has collaborated to guide Charlie over the years. From occupational therapy to psychology and an Individual Education Plan (IEP) at school, Charlie has a robust support system. Speaking about these support mechanisms, Charlie mentions how pivotal therapy has been, especially when she feels “stuck”. While her mum Emily remains her primary confidant, therapy offers targeted strategies that often prove invaluable, particularly concerning school and social dynamics.
Charlie expresses, “Sometimes I try the solutions from my psychologist. She will give me a bunch of options to try and they really help; like they really, really help.”
“She helps with mostly school situations. I work out lots of social situations myself and I work out what I’ll talk to mum about.”
Breaking barriers and crafting a vision
Charlie’s educational journey witnessed considerable challenges. From an initial diagnosis of an auditory processing disorder, followed by ASD, ADHD, and chromosomal deletion, her path was intricate. Fortunately, the confirmed diagnoses of autism and ADHD equipped her school to provide better assistance through an IEP. This more personalised approach worked wonders for Charlie.
With dreams of diving into the culinary world, Charlie is planning to start a Certificate 2 in Cookery at Tafe. She will be supported by her school to complete this course alongside her school studies.
“Once I finish school, I would like to be a pastry chef,” Charlie says.
In alignment with her goals, she recently commenced her professional journey with roles at The Cheesecake Shop and Hungry Jack’s.
Embracing art, adventure, and new bonds
Beyond school and career aspirations, Charlie’s creative side shines brightly. She recently celebrated an impressive milestone in art at school, transitioning from D grades to a commendable B.
“I allowed people to help me, which I don’t usually do,” she attributes to the improvement.
With her love of art, Charlie jumped headfirst into activities at ‘Neo,’ a teen taker over at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), where young people can kick back and hang out with friends, jump into creative labs, tune into live music and explore the latest exhibitions.
As an unofficial ambassador for the art gallery, Charlie says of Neo, “You can just go out and have fun!”
“You can be from anywhere in the community including the rainbow community, and you can meet new people and make new friends.”
In the past, Charlie has had difficulty making and maintaining friendships, but joining in events at the art gallery has boosted both her confidence and her people skills.
Taking part in Venturers, a scouting group, has also extended Charlie’s social abilities.
“It’s made me a lot more happy. I was down in the dumps when I didn’t know how to make more friends. Now it’s really fun. I like hanging out with my friends and trying to mingle. I try my hardest.”
Charlie has also developed a love of sport, and the camaraderie that goes with it, after joining a women’s AFL team at Willaston Football Club.
“It’s really fun. I like being on the field and moving around lots. I love football.”
Emily is proud of her daughter’s courage in stepping out of her comfort zone while also educating others about her challenges and triumphs.
“She was able to tell her football team that she has difficulties with social skills and that when she appears disconnected it’s because she’s accidentally zoned out, not because she’s not interested,” says Emily.
No longer depressed and withdrawn, Charlie is building new skills left, right and centre.
Radiating positivity and connecting souls
Renowned for her infectious optimism and proactive nature, Charlie now loves connecting with others. She views her disabilities not as barriers, but unique attributes that shape her personality.
Charlie’s tale is a testament to the power of a supportive environment, and a heart that seeks to connect. It’s a story of a can-do attitude, the thrill of adventure, and a future teeming with endless possibilities.
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