SHE’S an internationally-acclaimed autism advocate, but at school Robyn Steward was bullied and called a spastic, retard and freak.
Social norms are difficult for people with autism and Steward struggled to fit into a world so different to her internal one.
With no friends she was lonely, often frightened and confused, and felt a failure.
“I thought that I would be homeless and a drug addict by the time I was 21,” the now 31-year-old writes on her webpage.
Things turned around at college when Steward and another student started teaching the teachers about autism.
“I really understood at this point that if I helped non-autistic people understand autistic people, then non-autistic people could help me understand non-autistic people,” she says.
“This meant I could alter my behaviour to avoid being bullied.”
Steward was getting good grades in her university course and started volunteering with the National Autistic Society.
But a trip to the US as an autism ambassador prompted a change in career, and she now tours the world teaching people about autism, and helping people with the condition to live an independent life.
Steward, a research associate at University College London, wrote The Independent Woman’s Handbook for Super Safe Living on the Autistic Spectrum, and her new book The Autism Friendly Guide to Periods will be published next year.
She will be passing on her wealth of knowledge on living with autism at Notre Dame’s Tannock Hall on Cliff Street, Thursday March 22, at 6.30pm.
Dan Akroyd, Lewis Carroll, Steve Jobs, Charles Darwin and the father of the modern electricity system, Nikola Tesla, were all on the autistic spectrum.
Autism West’s programs provide weekly support for more than 100 young people across the Perth metropolitan area, including its Alma Street base in the former Blood Bank on South Terrace.
Tickets for Robyn Stewart are $25 at trybooking.com/book/event?eid=358504&
by JENNY D’ANGER