My name is Annie Hussey and I am a 23 year old university student, professional speaker and mentor from Barrie, Ontario Canada. I have been speaking since the age of sixteen for school boards and organizations across the province. As well, I also serve as a mentor and life coach to several young adults on the spectrum. Currently, I am in the process of writing a book, expanding my speaking opportunities, and aiming towards a career in supporting and consulting others with an ASD. Recently, I have even presented on a panel of girls on the spectrum at the Geneva Centre’s symposium, one of whom was Temple Grandin.
Growing up with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome has been challenging, but over the years I have tried my best to adapt to it. As a child, I was completely oblivious to other people, preferring to escape into vivid imaginary worlds complete with geography and characters. I was very difficult during school as I clung to preferred activities, got very upset over any sort of change, and overreacted to sensory stimuli. Over the years, my difficulties decreased as knowledge of AS became widespread and the school staff developed awareness of it. My interests became more socially based, and by high school I became completely determined to tackle my problems with socialization. I joined a youth group where I practiced my skills with people with disablities, which expanded into friendships with neurotypicals during college and university. I feel that having a sister with a developmental disablity as been an asset to my skill development as her peers were accepting and nonjudgemental, and I never felt intimidated by them.
Despite my successes, I feel that it is important to highlight my daily struggles as well. Since childhood I have had symptoms of anxiety and depression, which were formed as a response to feeling out of place in society and among others. I still struggle with my mood and can sink into depression during periods of change. Although I surround myself with supportive people today, I have lost friendships because of a lack of understanding towards my behaviours. Still, I am not allowing these obstacles to bring me down. Just as I have done in the past, I am continually working at harnessing my potentials and focusing on my strengths. I embody a message of hope and perserverance which I spread to everyone I meet. I meet so many parents, teachers and support workers who become hopeless and worry about the future for the people they know. I tell them that there is not only so much potential success in people on the spectrum, but they can become catalysts in harnessing these strengths and talents. There are so many people that have supported me thoughout the years, and a single thank you to them is not enough.
Even if I touch one person who is affected by an ASD, personally or impersonally, that gives me enough hope to carry on.