Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

Chris Bonnello

Category: Advocacy, policy and media

I came to realise how many chances I was missing to do good things for young people.

Autistic not weird

33-year-old Chris has Asperger’s and was diagnosed as an adult. He faced many challenges growing up. He felt he didn’t fit in and was always the ‘odd’ one or ‘quirky’ one. In his own words:

“Being autistic feels like you’re locked in playing a permanent game where nobody has bothered to explain the rules to you: you’re just expected to magically know them, because everybody else does.

“I grew up not knowing how other people worked, surrounded by very strange people who seemed to claim that I was the one who was strange!

Advocacy LDA Leaders' List 2018

“As an adult I struggled with employment, even as a qualified teacher with two university degrees. I found it difficult to connect with how the other 99% of the population think (and, it has to be said, many people’s inflexibility in wishing to connect with how I think.)”

Since diagnosis he has become a very popular advocate who has a huge following and he dedicates a lot of his time to promoting autism awareness and understanding.

Chris continues: “After I left primary school teaching (having also worked in special education), I came to realise how many chances I was missing to do good things for young people.

“Originally I started Autistic Not Weird to give advice to people growing up on the autism spectrum, but it’s since expanded to offer guidance to autistic adults and families of autistic people too.

“More than anything else it was a drive to build people up, which was why I had entered the teaching profession in the first place.”

Changing attitudes

Chris delivers talks and training on autism around the country at schools, workplaces, support groups and in the media – for example The Autism Show.

He runs a popular Facebook Page Community called ‘Autistic Not Weird’ that has over 80,000 followers and his website is full of articles that he writes with an honest insight from both personal and professional experiences.

He speaks internationally, including world famous venues such as the Sydney Opera House!

Chris writes about many topics that surround autism such as anxiety, employment issues and navigating the diagnosis criteria as an adult. Chris has worked in Special Education in the past and still tutors students with autism alongside his advocacy work.

What we love most about life

Chris has also produced a popular book that contains 150 autistic children discussing ‘what we love most about life’. The book has been particularly useful to children with a new diagnosis and helped them to realise they are not alone in the world.

His second book, Guerrillas is due for release in 2019. It’s a war novel where most of the soldiers are teenagers from a special school, where those with special needs are presented as the heroes instead of the victims for once!

Chris strives to make the world aware of a more positive side of autism as the media often portrays the negative stories.

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