I would say that the beginning of my life was a strange, difficult time in my life. As a child my world was different and interesting in my head. My world which I call now “Orlandoland” was my security and sanctuary. My family are the best. There is so much love and fun. My mum and dad gave me so much love and support growing up that I felt safe. I was very close with my baby brother, grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles that things didn’t seem so bad and because of that I had a joyful and fun childhood.
But outside of the family unit, I felt alone, insecure and afraid. I felt like the whole world was my enemy and I found it difficult to make friends. Only certain adults I could speak to and tell them my fears.
I love performing arts and I started doing it when I was around six. I loved watching Michael and Janet Jackson when I grew up and I see Janet as a big inspiration to be. Her music has helped me through so many difficult times, struggles and obstacles. My mum enrolled me at Sylvia Young’s Drama School in 1992 on a Saturday doing Tap dance and speech therapy to help me with my speaking. Performing for me was a god send and I could express myself and be a star, forgetting those insecurities I had.
Through high school,l which was one of the most difficult times in my life, I put my energy into Art which is my natural talents and drama, music and dance.
After seeing Janet Jackson MTV ICON show, I wanted to be a performer in the future and I was determined to make that dream of mine happen.
Getting a diagnosis was hard - I remember as a kid going to a counselling session with my mum and not understanding why I was there, why I had to go and not my brother. I felt different and worthless, like I was a moron. I was frightened and angry. I hated who I was and with other tough and difficult things I was facing in my life at that moment, I kept asking myself, why is this happening to me, why is God punishing me. That’s when I started to rebel. Other kids influenced me to not good places and fell off the tracks of positive thoughts.
I understood now why I was being judged and treated differently by others and began closing into a shell. Luckily for me, the only people I could rely on or talk to was my family. My older cousins are mostly girls and they are like my older sisters and I felt comfortable talking to them about anything.
By the time I was 18,, I had more of any understanding about society and being an adult and I felt it was time to do what made me feel happy. I told my mum and dad that I wanted to performing arts and not art and design, it doesn’t make me happy. That rebellious side began to evolve even more. So I enrolled at WAC Performing Arts and Media College - it was a different experience from any other I have ever faced. I knew that if I wanted to do my own thing, I had to speak up and face my fears. I did drama and singing and for the first time, I found somewhere where I felt safe but could express myself. I loved it and I would go there without fail
Whilst I was at WAC, there were different projects for different people. One of the ones that were there was Wonder WAC, which provided projects for young people with Asperger’s and Autism throughout the spectrum.The day of my first project - I was scared and didn’t know what to expect. I was paired up with another worker on the trip to take care of a young Autistic boy over the week. He seemed as fearful of me as I was scared of him, but after a while, I felt comfortable and this autistic vibe helped me understand him. After the trip, I wanted to know more about Asperger’s Syndrome and the aspects of it.
My dad sent me to this autistic workshop in Islington, North London, called Prospects which was run by the National Autistic Society. I met my social worker called Justin; He was nice, friendly, made bad jokes and had a real passion for me to succeed. In the beginning, Justin and I worked one-on-one to help me find employment after I quit my job. Through the sessions, I began to develop life skills and employment advice.
I asked Justin if I could work in a special school for Autistic people, he said he would help me get my request. He thought it would be good for me. I did a work experience at the Acton Day Centre in West London for a week and experienced what Autistic and Asperger’s people who weren’t as independent as me did an on daily basis.
I found a new found respect for Autistic/Asperger’s people as well as carers and support workers. These experiences through that whole year changed my life.
Now that I had an understanding of what Asperger’s Syndrome was about and how others lived their lives, I had to fight and drive forward.. In 2007, I began starring in productions such as the musical Dreamgirls, Jim Cartwright’s play Road and feature in music videos and feature films like Doomsday and Franklyn. My parts weren’t big but I was starting out and loved every moment of it. I felt that I needed to do professional training even though I did so many short courses. If I look in my folder of certificates I have probably 10 of them woooooooooooooowwwwwww!!!!!!!
I went back to WAC on its newly accredited National Diploma course in Musical Theatre.
I was thrown into the deep end as this was training I’ve never experienced before but me being the fighter that I am, I didn’t want any hand outs or special treatment. I wanted to be a normal student and trust me I got my licks. The course had a lot of financial troubles where I had to stop and take a year out. I didn’t quit performing, I just continued and began going to open-mic nights and finding other productions to get involved with. In that time, I began meeting more people than I probably I have ever met in my life. I started promoting myself in the industry through Facebook and Twitter.
I remember doing some productions on the diploma and the feedback was amazing that I was inspiring a lot of young boys to become somebody, I didn’t really acknowledge it, and I thought people were being nice to be nice.
Now that I have finished my diploma, I have been in many productions including the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony as a dancer. Life for me is so good right now and I still work with Autistic people on projects.
I write this story as how I overcame obstacles and life experiences of what a positive outcome Asperger’s has and to be honest the lucky ones are those children who have been diagnosed very early, they have a better chance than I did. With the right people in your life, you can make mistakes and not feel bad. I just want to thank all my beautiful family and friends and enemies for making me stronger and excel into becoming a strong and happy individual.
IF I CAN DO IT, ANYBODY CAN DO IT, YOU LIVE ONCE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LIFE, IT ONLY HAPPENS ONCE. Xxxx