Introducing Tyler - a sixth form student at Portfield School who shares his experiences with autism.
Receiving an autism diagnosis can be a moment of huge significance for many, providing answers to all the questions one might have about themsleves. In Tyler’s case, it played an important role and was the starting point to finding his identity and understanding himself. Before his mum told him about his autism diagnosis, he didn’t really know what it was. Since then, it has become an integral part of who he is, saying, ‘If it’s something that makes me, me, then I’m okay with that.’ He describes his autism as a central part of his identity, having a big impact on his life and helping him define who he is as a person. He believes it has given him an interesting life, and it wouldn’t be anything near what it is without it.
When Tyler was first diagnosed, he was told there were two things he wouldn’t be able to do - make long-lasting friendships or ride a bike. ‘Guess two things that I can do?’ he said.
A common myth is that autistic people can’t form friendships. Tyler has many thriving friendships at Portfield School which is evidence that autistic people can, and do, form meaningful social connections with their peers. Debunking these misconceptions are crucial to breaking down barriers and building an environment where autistic people can flourish.
Tyler is a huge fan of steam engines – you can ask him almost anything about them; it’s one of his biggest passions in life, stemming from his love for Thomas. For the longest time, it was his dream to pursue a career in that field – to become a train driver. However, as he spent more time thinking about it, he realised railways were an interest rather than a career. Now, after finishing education, Tyler wants to stay at Portfield School to become a teaching assistant. He wants to help people who have been in his situation; to give them the support they need. Just like anyone else, he has his own set of strengths and challenges. While he has a river of knowledge on many different topics, he can sometimes struggle with other things like maths and negative change.
He went on to say that autism shouldn’t be considered a disability. While he acknowledges that there are certain things he has trouble with, nevertheless he is still capable of doing lots of other things and his autism doesn’t stop him from leading a fulfilling and happy life. He continued, ‘even the people with what is called ‘the lowest functioning autism’ can still have a life, are capable of living…We’re not just a bunch of guys who flick our hands around and just stare at stuff.’
Autistic people are just as capable as the next person. They’re as smart, imaginative and knowledgeable as anyone else.