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autism By Dave Fagg All about advocacy Daniel Giles has received many accolades for his disability advocacy, including a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2017. But it’s been a long journey from early childhood. I meet Daniel Giles and his father, Daniel describes his personal As he grew up, Daniel became Daryl (pictured), in a local cafe experience of autism: “When I was a passionate about organisations like on an overcast Bendigo day. As toddler I noticed I played differently schools and churches becoming more we tuck into lunch, they share their to my cousins. And at school, it felt inclusive of people on the autism family’s journey with autism. When like I was behind a glass wall, as spectrum, because he believes these Daniel was a small child, Daryl though there was a video playing but communities can be so positive for noticed something different about his I couldn’t step in and take part.” children and young people. son, leading to a diagnosis of autism at age two-and-a-half. However, this did not prevent him “The church has been such a from progressing through life. He great place for me, and my greatest attended a special school, then made supporters are in the church, yet compared to other kids his age. He the shift to mainstream school and there is still a need for attitudes and also had a red toy car that he would later completed a Bachelor of Graphic practices to shift,” Daniel said. ride in exactly the same route, and Design (Honours). Daniel now lives would get very upset if we tried to independently and works as a graphic giving talks on the autism spectrum to vary that,” Daryl said. designer. community groups when he was just “Daniel didn’t have much speech Fifteen years ago, he took action, a teenager. This grew into Speaking Insights, where Daniel tells his story, and gives practical strategies for families and educators. “People come to learn from someone with ‘lived experience’, and I think it’s important for people to hear the experience of family members. That’s why my father is involved, and often my sister, Leah, will also take part,” Daniel said. Daryl said that families often come looking for a way forward. “Sometimes they’re in tears with the hope it’s given them and their children, just seeing Daniel’s success,” Daryl said. Receiving an OAM was unexpected, but Daniel said he was honoured. After hearing his story, it’s an honour that is richly deserved. www.speakinginsights.com.au 34 autism linkonline.com.au