Penelope is a 32-year-old living with Asperger's who is an accomplished statistician and assistant lecturer in women's health at Monash University. She is one of the co-founders of I CAN Network, a national youth-focused organisation empowering young Australians with Autism to have a confident 'I CAN' attitude and inspire their peers with the 'awe' in Awetism, and is I CAN Network's ambassador for girls and young women on the Autism Spectrum.

Penelope will present on Day 3, Symposium 12 - Transforming futures - perspectives of adults with ASD 

Life with an "I CAN" attitude: My journey to becoming an Assistant Lecturer: Firstly, using the ABS stats from 2012, I'll give an overview of the #AWEtismRethink I Can Network, and why a rethink on autism is needed. I will talk about why focusing on the strengths of the spectrum rather than deficits is so important. This will briefly cover the 4 "Pillars" of the "I CAN Network", which aims to improve the ABS "Autism in Australia" 2012 statistics1.
1. 'I CAN Achieve' – mentoring children, adolescents and young adults on the spectrum.
• 86% of students on the spectrum report facing 'difficulty' in their schools1.
2. 'I CAN Enable, Not Label' – building the capacity of educators of young people on the spectrum.
• 81% of people on the spectrum do NOT have a post-school qualification1.
3. 'I CAN Create Change' – advocacy that drives a rethink of Autism, from 'I Can't' to 'I CAN'.
4. 'I CAN Invest in Talent' – talent development of young people and fundraising for I CAN Network.
• 58% of people with Autism are NOT in employment1.
Secondly, I will talk about my personal journey to becoming an Assistant Lecturer at Monash University and the challenges I've overcome along the way. These challenges include requiring intensive speech therapy as a child, being bullied at school, and having panic attacks. I'll also talk about the good things that having Aspergers syndrome has brought me including being accepted for who I was (at university and beyond), working successfully, the steps I took to becoming independent (and moving out of home), and the family support that I've had throughout my journey.

Also presenting in this Symposum:
Jeanette Purkis
Matthew Bennett