A differbility, not a disability

Thomas is a 23-year-old autism advocate, online content creator, Biomedical Sciences honours graduate, special needs Teaching Assistant and, remarkably, a former Commonwealth Champion in Taekwondo.

Furloughed like so many others, lockdown was to prove a hugely stressful time for him. But as with so many other Leaders List winners this year, Thomas rose to the challenge and is really making a difference with the opportunities lockdown offered him.

“I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome age 10. I am very hypersensitive and struggle immensely with mental health and executive dysfunction – meaning I find it difficult to navigate my daily routine. I have frequent meltdowns and spikes in anxiety which followed me throughout my competition days, but my social/communicative skills are definitely a strong point.

“I use my knowledge of psychology and neurology, as well as my own personal experience to approach emotional/social and neurological differences in a unique way.”

Isolation, especially the first few weeks of lockdown, had a significant impact on Thomas’ severe depression and anxiety. He found it hard to function properly day to day without seeing friends and family, and the routine change left him in deep water.

Helping other people saved Thomas. It is the reason he gets out of bed in the morning. A YouTuber, filmmaker and podcaster in his spare time, Thomas found that his words helped support other people, and inspired others to work towards his mission.

Creating the ‘Aspergers In Society’ documentary and engaging with the mainstream media, Thomas seeks to better integrate autistic people and act as a strong role model for others.

“I feel proud of myself that I’ve been able to produce my documentary, I put over 300 hours of work into it and taught myself all the necessary skills independently” says Thomas.

Thomas’ Youtube library contains brilliant and highly personal films like:

Viewers have told Thomas that his ability to continue being functional and productive despite all the challenges he faces, gives people a lot of motivation to work on themselves, autistic or not. And of course that, in turn, has given Thomas the passion to continue his work.

Thomas is an active advocate on Twitter. Follow him @AspergersGrowth

Thomas now plans to use his Leaders List award to help him access the mainstream media, to advocate for better mental health support, reduce rates of bullying/isolation, and to create a more positive narrative for autistic people.

The last word should go to Thomas: “Autism has made my life hard in some respects, but I’ve found it can be an amazing advantage in many areas. I’m passionate, considerate, have strong moral values, display intense concentration on subjects of interest, and can approach all problems with an analytical/logical angle.

“All these things made me into the person I am today. I like being autistic, it’s a differbility not a disability.”

How does it feel to win?