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Woman at computer with headset on talking about autistic self-advocacy

Finding your voice as an autistic person: Jacqui’s story

Self-advocacy is an important skill for everyone to develop – especially for those who have particular disability support needs and are unsure how to articulate them.  

Jacqui Whitehead, a 51-year-old from Northern Adelaide, said she’s always felt “stuck” and uncertain about advocating for her own needs and she couldn’t see a way forward.   

By signing up for Feros Care’s eight-week program for people who are autistic or have similar neurodivergent traits, Jacqui took an important step towards developing her confidence.  

About the program

Feros Care developed this program in collaboration with renowned advocate Yenn Purkis.  The Foundational Guide to Self-Advocacy online program promises a supportive, peer-led environment that empowers participants to articulate their needs and desires more effectively.  

As a local area coordinator (LAC) service, Feros Care is dedicated to building capacity within the community, helping individuals enhance their self-advocacy skills while cultivating a supportive and inclusive environment. 

“We recognise there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to self-advocacy. Each person is the expert of their own life. By connecting through open and thoughtful conversations, individuals both contribute and learn from each other,” says Mel Wanchap, Virtual Community Development Coordinator for Feros Care. 

“These sessions are foundational, yet constantly evolving through feedback from our attendees in each round.” 

Jacqui’s experience of the program

While self-advocacy is unfamiliar territory for most participants, and may be daunting, the program is designed to make everyone comfortable.   

“I think it’s hard for some autistic people to understand what is beneficial about the support available to them and how to ask for it,” Jacqui recalls. “And for the first couple of weeks, I thought, ‘this program isn’t for me’.”   

But as the weeks progressed, something significant began to happen for Jacqui. She engaged deeply with the course content and the shared experiences of her peers, and her understanding of her personal needs and community support changed.   

“By connecting through open and thoughtful conversations, individuals both contribute and learn from each other,” says Mel of the process.    

During the program Jacqui began to see not just her immediate goals more clearly, but also the bigger picture of her life. She also realised it would be helpful to change some behaviours to avoid feeling overwhelmed.   

“I have also changed my goals after recognising I am in burnout,” she tells, showing her new-found self-awareness since the program.  

Personal growth is empowering

Jacqui didn’t immediately recognise her own growth after the program until people close to her started commenting on the positive changes they noticed.  

“I learned how beneficial the program was after talking to others and they noticed how I had grown,” Jacqui shares.   

This external validation really strengthened her internal progress. She began to tackle her challenges with newfound confidence and clarity, transitioning from feeling stuck to being empowered.   

By the program’s conclusion, Jacqui had evolved from a participant to a proactive contributor, eager to offer feedback to enhance sessions for future participants. This outcome is a great indicator of how the program empowers individuals to speak up, connect, and thrive within their neuro-kin and broader communities.  

“Through shared understanding, participants gain confidence and a sense of belonging,” explains Mel.

“They connect with one another and discover valuable resources and strategies from their shared experiences, cultivating a supportive network for growth and development.” 

Encouraged by her experience, Jacqui invites others who are autistic or have similar neurodivergent traits, to explore their potential through the program. And if you’re still on the fence, she suggests you just take that first step any way, even if you are uncertain.  

If Jacqui’s story resonates with you, or if you’re seeking a supportive environment to develop communication skills for self-advocacy, you can download an information sheet or register your interest to participate in our next session of “Autism and Neurodiversity: A Foundational Guide to Self-Advocacy.”   

Discover your voice, empower your journey, and become a part of a thriving community eager to support each step you take.  


*Please be advised that the image provided is for representation only and does not feature Jacqui. 

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