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Reigate teenager's inspiring autism mission
6:16pm Monday 7th January 2013 in News
A teenager with autism is fighting back against the stigma of the condition in a mission to educate others and help them see past the disability.
Simon Tobin of Reigate is one of more than half a million people with autism in the UK.
Like many other 19-year-olds, he is idealistic, eager for change and passionate about making the world a better place.
But what makes him different is that he is trying to make that difference by using his experience of living with autism to increase understanding of the condition in the world around him.
Simon, a service user at Care Management Group (CMG) Hillview, a supported living service for adults with learning disabilities, has launched a campaign to this end and conducts presentations for CMG employees, schools, the police and doctors to pass on his knowledge about the condition.
He refuses to let his autism affect his ambitions.
At the request of a college tutor, Simon gave his first presentation on autism to his fellow students in April 2011.
It was a great success, he found he could help people understand the obstacles faced by those with autism, and he went on to build a website - www.me-and-my-autism.com - to spread the message.
His next step was to educate employees and other service users at his home, CMG Hillview, about what it is like to live with autism, the frustrations he encounters each day, and the techniques he uses to cope.
The sessions were so well received that Simon has since gone on to pass on his expertise to schools and colleges in the area, and the police.
He has even given a training session for a group of doctors from The Royal Society of Medicine. Simon said: “There is a lack of understanding amongst the general public about autism, and I hope that my training sessions will help to improve this.”
He said: “As well as medical professionals, we need to promote awareness of the condition amongst young people.
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to go into schools and colleges to speak to pupils.”
He said: “The first time I gave a presentation, I was the most nervous I’ve ever been, but once I got started I could really feel my confidence grow. “The most rewarding thing about giving my presentations is the knowledge that an autistic person somewhere is going to benefit from what I do.”
Simon's efforts have won him praise from many, including David Condon, manager of CMG Hillview.
He said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to have witnessed Simon’s presentations, and they’re absolutely outstanding. “He has a fantastic ability to speak to anyone and everyone and it’s a testament to his energy and drive that he identified the problem of a lack of public understanding of autism, and decided to do something about it. “He uses his experiences to give his audience a real personal insight into living with autism.”
CMG, which has more than 100 services in southern England and southern Wales, was founded more than a decade ago and supports nearly 600 people with learning disabilities and associated complex needs, including mental health, physical and sensory impairment.