I don’t have a physical disability, it is more of an internal issue. When I say internal, I mean that I have a type of learning disability. Sometimes I am not good at maths, or with money. I find it hard to learn new things.
I never tell people I have special needs. When I was in primary school, I fitted in with the rest of the children, but high school was different. Every day, I had to attend classes designed for people with special needs. The only subjects I liked, were the ones where I could be creative. Art helps me to express my true feelings.
I am involved with many activity groups, such as SkillWise on Air at Plains FM. I also paint, and for many years I have been involved with a theatrical group called A Different Light. Before I joined them, I could not talk to people. I was very shy and quiet. A Different Light helped me to gain confidence and I’ve now learnt to be very social.
I had the opportunity to go overseas with them. We performed at a contemporary performing arts festival called The Ludus Festival in Leeds, England, and at the Society for Disability Studies Conference in San Jose, California. Those were interesting experiences and great opportunities to help me travel and see the world.
At the moment, I am also training to be able to get a paid job. I’m aware of many of the things I need to do to achieve that, which is why I have been studying at ARA Institute of Canterbury. They support people with disabilities and offer a program called Skill Up, a program developed specially for people like me.
I have been in paid employment before, but work has always been difficult for me. In a work environment, I always meet a lot of nice people and I enjoy what I am paid to do, but I find the actual work sometimes scary. I don’t know if this is due to lack of training, but a couple of times at work, I have not been aware of some things like health and safety hazards. I could not see the dangers in some of the tasks I was asked to do. There was an incident once, my co-worker was driving an old truck and I was with him in the passenger seat. We were laughing and having fun. We were enjoying ourselves, but we did not think of the risks involved in driving that old vehicle, which required the driver’s full attention. Luckily nothing happened, but things might have been different. I learnt to be more aware and ask questions about potential hazards, both for myself and other people.
Sometimes I find close relationships with people difficult. For example, relationships with girls can be tricky because they seem to like to think 50 years ahead. I guess I like to live one day at the time and enjoy my independence.
I like my busy life. I have many friends and I get involved in many activities, but I would still like to be more independent. I say this because the support people at the residential homes like to know my plans for each day or what I want to do. They get concerned about our safety and wellbeing and it is their role to make sure nothing bad happens to us. I know that is a good thing.
What would I like for my future? Maybe live in a mansion and become my own boss. I could become a chef. In reality, I would like to have my driving license, be allowed to drive myself around, go flatting and get some help with cooking and budgeting. Most of all, I would like to become a street artist and have a creative outlet.
A street artist is someone who paints murals. Sometimes they copy from small images and make them much larger. Making money does not matter for some artists because they are creating something that makes people feel better about the earth, but I would want to be paid for my time. I also would like to volunteer some of my time to help kids and homeless people become artists because art inspires.