You shouldn’t have to look different to be treated normally. Sometimes things are harder because people look at you and expect more from you without understanding who you really are.
My physical ability is a bit limited. I mean, I can’t run. I can walk but I can’t play a team sport. I used to play basketball and I used to really enjoy it. I was not so much a physical basketball player, but I did enjoy being part of the team.
I am on the autistic spectrum and have dyspraxia. I have the tendencies of autism, which means I lack a certain amount of social awareness.
I am pretty good with routine, I like to know what is happening and when. I need reminders to help me keep things organized and to know what to expect. I also send lots of texts to my mum, Karyn, to ensure things are happening as expected. For example, I send her messages saying, ‘remember to pick me up at 2.00 o’clock’. It is really just a matter of reassurance.
(Karyn) I would say she is a ‘looker’. She will sit back and look, rather than interact. She will answer questions, but not give very much information. If someone says, ‘What have you been up to today’ she will say, ‘I’ve been to SkillWise’ but that is it, she finds it hard to enter into a full conversation.
Jessie is a very likeable person. People that do not know about her disability do not understand that she has problems with social interaction.
(Jessie) I watch people to get clues about a situation. People don’t understand that. At the bus station, for example, some people will look at me aggressively. They will ask, ‘What are you staring at?’. I’m just observing what is happening and people take it as if I am staring at them. It is hard.
(Karyn) The process of putting all the social cues together takes a little bit longer for Jessie, so that can come across as staring.
(Jessie) I haven’t got into trouble yet but I think I possibly could. Luckily people haven’t been physically aggressive towards me. I am usually in a safe environment where I can just walk away and remove myself from the situation.
I also have Dyspraxia. It is not dyslexia, but my writing is big and bold. It is not refined and looks like a handwriting of a younger person.
(Karyn) Jessica was mainstream until year eight, and then she went to a private school. We thought that the private system would be more caring and supportive or her needs. Where we live, we are zoned for the biggest state school out there and we were concerned about Jessie coping in such a big open environment.
(Jessie) I was scared of all the girls.
(Karyn) Yes, because girls can be a lot cattier. It started out fine, but once they realized Jessie was a little bit different and didn’t respond quite how people expected her to, there was quite a bit of bullying.
(Jessie) They didn’t want to hang out with me.
(Karyn) The school sort of pushed her away. They said, ‘We think she is not a good fit for our school. She is not going to pass the grades’, or at least that is what it sounded like to me. They helped her to get into a special needs school. This was something we hadn’t really thought about before. Jessie is a bit of a grey area in the sense that her disability is not severe enough to get funded. She has never had extra funding in relation to schooling. So it was always quite hard. In a way she was quite lucky she got accepted into Allenvale School because Allenvale is a special needs school. Now, every child there needs to be Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funded
(Jessie) I have to get tested to get funding for schooling
(Karyn) Jessica found it quite enjoyable once she got there because other people weren’t judging her. She felt more at home.
(Jessie) I felt better being at Allenvale than at the mainstream school because we were at the same level and I got to make friends more. That’s where I met Leonard, my boyfriend.
I left school when I was 21 and then, I became part of SkillWise. There, we learn many things that help us to develop useful skills and to become more social. For example, I’m learning how to cook, I play pool once a week and I also belong to a film group. We just released our latest movie.
SkillWise also supports me in many areas such as literacy and employment. At the moment, I’m trying to get my driving license with their help. I just completed a 40-hour learning license course, which will help me to get my learners driving license in the near future. I can’t wait to start driving myself around.
I work in a rest home and I volunteer at the Christchurch Hospital. All of those things give me independence and prepare me for my future. Eventually, I would like to get a flat on my own, get married, and go on holiday far away in another country to discover new things, meet new people or to visit my younger sister, Olivia, she lives in Australia.
I have a busy and enjoyable life. I have a nice boyfriend and do what any other young person does. I work, I go camping with my friends, we go to concerts like the Ellie Goulding concert in Christchurch or simply cuddle on the couch with my cat and watch TV.
Jessica and Karyn Agar
I want to get married. I am in love.
I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a few years. We hang out at the movies, go to dinner and laugh together at the same jokes. Sometimes we argue, but not for that long. My boyfriend gives in first. Maybe, if I were married we would still argue sometimes, but I would still win. Adults who are in love sometimes argue. It’s a part of any relationship. I love him. That’s all.
I think people with a disability should be able to marry. People who think differently make me feel upset. I’m not quite sure of when I will be engaged, I’m not in a hurry. I just want to spend the rest of my life with Leonard, the man I love.