Making Connections in Lockdown

Coronavirus Leaders’ List winner Max Green, 23, is passionate about raising awareness and understanding of autism. As well as working full time in IT, he is also a YouTuber, an Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, an actor and he is also a public speaker, speaking about his experiences of having autism.

Max was nominated for his special YouTube blog series, Autism Connections, which he created during lockdown. In the series he speaks to people who have connections to autism. How does Max feel about being a winner?

“Really excited. This year has gone very quickly and this time last year we were all in a different place. It’s nice to have a bit of good news.”

YouTube and lockdown

Max already has a YouTube channel, MaxiAspie, where he blogs about autism.

He’d had an idea for a while about interviewing people who had connections with autism. Whilst lockdown restricted lots of people, Max saw lockdown as the opportunity to complete this project.

In the series he interviews people with connections to autism, whether their own experiences, through their work, or even in one case an ex colleague who just wanted a better understanding of autism.

Lockdown gave him the perfect opportunity to film them with people being either less busy due to lockdown or being furloughed. Says Max, “I always wanted to do sit down interviews with Autistic People and people who might not have a lot of knowledge about Autism. I know so many Autistic People, I wanted their stories to be heard and I wanted to hear them as well. It was a good opportunity for me to learn and to get the awareness out there.”

As well as his special series, Max also filmed some shorter Coronavirus-related videos, Autism and Coronavirus, Schools and Coronavirus and Injustice during Covid-19 where he speaks about the impact of Covid 19 on himself and the autism community.

Max has been on YouTube for around 10 years with his MaxiAspie channel coming up to two years old. He’s had several channels over the years from films of bike stunts, acting in soap operas to his most recent, weekly videos informing people about autism.

“It aligns with a lot of the stuff I’m doing, people don’t have the time for an hour episode of one of my speeches, but can spare three minutes to watch a video of a subject around Autism and Autistic People which will help people understand more. YouTube videos are a good avenue to get the message about raising awareness of autism out there.”

Public speaker and actor

Max first started speaking publicly about autism in his first job, when he was asked to take part in a Diversity in the Workplace video.

From there he did some more films for Sovereign Housing Association and West Berkshire Consortium. His public speaking started through his Ambassador role for NAS and he now speaks in schools, as well as giving a yearly talk to students at Oxford Brookes University alongside lecturer Jon Reid.

The previous deputy head at his secondary school, Jon, got back in contact with Max after seeing him in his various acting roles.

Says Max about his public speaking, “It’s just getting the message out there for all people. The problem we have is we have a lot of awareness but not a lot of understanding. We need to give examples of what can help. Listening to things that could help would give people the tools to understand it a lot more.

“I try and add humour in my speeches. I believe people listen when they’re laughing.  As long as one person walks away and uses that speech to help an autistic person then I’m happy, I just want better for people and hope that they don’t have to go through some of the things I have had to whether that’s in school, employment or day to day life.”

School wasn’t easy

Max had a difficult time at school and is particularly keen to educate teachers. Unable to speak until he was six he was labelled ‘naughty’ at primary school by a teacher before his diagnosis of autism.

Says Max, “It’s scary to think that some of these people who can say these comments can run a school one day. I don’t believe in the saying ‘he’s just naughty,’ I always believe there’s a reason behind the behaviour.”

After moving to an SEN secondary school, Max was told his school wouldn’t offer any GCSE but praises the school for the support he received “even though the school didn’t offer GCSE they did offer alternatives, but more importantly the schools teachers and support was second to none, had it not been for them I wouldn’t be where I am now”.

Max has spoken about his experiences of education with postgraduates, SENCOs, politicians and kids and wants to talk at schools before autistic people go out into the world. He wants people to get the same opportunities as everyone else gets in the world of work, and considers himself lucky to be one of the 16% of people with autism in full time work, although he is disappointed this figure hasn’t changed for 10 years.

Max is also an actor, best known for roles in BBC Holby City and BBC Doctors, both as Autistic characters

Says Max, “I like playing Autistic characters, it gives awareness. The only thing I would love to see change is currently Disabled people are only pencilled in to play disabled roles. The joy of acting is playing a different character; I can play someone neurotypical as I feel I’m just as good an actor and just because I am an Autistic Person shouldn’t change that fact.”

Working in the acting industry has been difficult during the pandemic but Max is optimistic about it, “In a way [the work being gone] has given me a little bit of comfort as I know it’s not a reflection on me. I think I could be doing more, but at the current rate, what could I be doing? It’s out of my control so I don’t worry about it too much. You learn there’s more to life than that and you start building more relationships and realise what the important things are.”

Max is a very determined person. He didn’t want to do the traditional route of getting into acting through attending an acting school, he wanted to do this off his own bat. He actually got his break by attending a casting session for extras and “me being me, I just walked under the rope to where the actors were.”

Getting contact details, he emailed “pretty much every casting director in the UK and Ireland” until he got his own agent.

He wants to say to young people, “It’s good to have qualifications, but if you don’t have them it’s not the end of the world, you can still do what you want to do. Bad grades are a massive blow, but there’s always another avenue to get to where you want to get to. It’s not the end of the world unless you make it that in your head. Take a step back and think ‘I’m still here, still breathing, there’s still time to fix it.’

What does the future hold for Max?

“I want to carry on raising awareness of Autism. I am raising money for charity this year for the NHS and National Autistic Society. You can donate on this webpage.

“I’d like to get more involved in the education side when I’m older, I always think of that as an option. I’d like to do more Ambassador work and if acting takes off and I can do that full time then that would give me a platform to have the message that ‘Ok, I’m an autistic person and I’m playing this role on TV, these are the tips I can give you. Just because you’re autistic doesn’t mean you can’t play a neurotypical character.”

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