IDPwD 2022: “Autistic adults are everywhere, they are creative, have relationships, and run businesses”
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Kathy Divine, 46, is a person with autism, but she’s so much more: a support worker, a peer mentor, a writer and author, a life coach, and an entrepreneur (or as she likes to call it, a visionpreneur). She’s a dog massage therapist and a percussionist. Kathy wears a lot of hats and she wears them well.
But navigating the world wasn’t always smooth. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 35 and later, with autism. Growing up was quite confusing in a social sense, but after diagnosis, life started to make a lot more sense. My health and wellbeing improved a lot as I learnt about how to look after my sensory needs and create boundaries when it came to dealing with people.”
Navigating the world as an autistic woman
Kathy, who was diagnosed with autism as an adult, says, “The misconception that autism is a childhood condition that somehow disappears when a person turns 18, is a significant one.”
She adds, “Autistic adults are everywhere, in workplaces, university and other tertiary colleges. They have friends, relationships, are business owners and can be creative and innovative.”
What these individuals — especially those diagnosed late and who never had support as a child — need is more targeted supports and experienced professionals, she stresses.
Supporting others with autism
“I’m very much pro-diagnosis because of how my life has changed for the better since I got diagnosed. The supports I didn’t know existed became available to me after diagnosis and they have been an absolute game-changer for me. These supports include those I access through Mable,” says Kathy.
To raise awareness of autism, especially among girls and women, a few years ago, Kathy started an Instagram and Facebook account (now known as @autietalk) as well as doing media interviews. “I’m focused on creating positive change and innovation wherever I go. My coaching and mentoring services at Autie Talk aim to empower my clients to create a lifestyle that works for them.”
To support her advocacy, Kathy is currently pursuing a Master’s in Autism from University of Wollongong. She says, “It’s been a very rewarding experience. Apart from learning how to more effectively support neurodivergent individuals in a range of settings including schools and workplaces, I’ve learnt how to manage studying at a post-graduate level while working and navigating my health and wellbeing needs. It’s very satisfying to realise that despite obstacles and an imperfect personal situation, I was able to make it through and achieve what I set out to do.”
Aside from advocacy, Kathy runs the yearly Australian Vegans Journal magazine and her online bookstore. “I’ve published six books on the topic of veganism. My latest book is Golden Age Politics and it’s about ethical leadership for a thriving world.”
In her free time, Kathy loves playing the drums. “It’s so much fun and really helpful for my sensory regulation and relaxation. It’s also fantastic exercise! I also love learning about animals and have a diploma in dog massage and other certificates related to animal naturopathy. I can’t wait to study more animal naturopathy courses when I have some spare time.”
Making the world more accessible
The theme for the International Day of People with Disability this year centers on the role innovation plays in making the world a more accessible and equitable place.
Kathy says, “I love this theme because it really encapsulates my approach to work and life. Innovation is happily my middle name. I love that Mable has a strong tech focus and works to make the process of booking support workers as quick and easy as possible.
“One particular innovation I really love is the Last Minute Jobs feature. Life happens and when you need support at short notice, it’s great to jump onto Mable and utilise this feature. I also like using the app as it’s simple, clear and easy to complete tasks such as responding to messages and approving support hours.”
A journey in self-discovery
Along her journey, Kathy says she’s learnt two things. “Firstly, it takes a lot of energy pretending to be someone you’re not. Embracing who you are and showing up as your true self is liberating, relaxing and good for health and wellbeing.”
She adds, “Secondly, the rules of life are fake, in terms of expected milestones and when society thinks we should have achieved certain things. Be free to create a lifestyle that works for you and take your own time to figure out who you are and what you want to do.
“We can try many things in terms of career, study and life experiences to get to know ourselves better and as we grow up. We’re constantly evolving in our awareness and understanding of ourselves and our interests can also change over time. That’s perfectly okay. Give yourself the space to explore, in all ways.”
Read some of our other incredible stories for IDPwD 2022:
1. Penny: IDPwD 2022: “I’m a person with disability — not a disabled person”
2. Caitlin: IDPwD 2022: “I think I’m as smart and talented as anyone else”
3. Tim: IDPwD 2022: Tim Ragg on how sports rescued him