LiveBetter Conversations

Demystifying Autism this Autism Awareness Day!
2nd April 2024

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, a day which not only aims to shine a light on the challenges people who live with autism face each day, but to celebrate their talents and their remarkable achievements – think Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and Greta Thunberg.

To mark the day, we caught up with LiveBetter’s Justin Omrod. Justin, a valued member of LiveBetter’s Marketing Team, was diagnosed with autism at the age of nine.

On Autism

“I’ve always been very inward-focused. I didn’t understand that it was that big of an issue. I remember Mum and Dad were very worried about why I was having so many obsessions, and I remember that when I went to the doctor to get diagnosed, in my mind I was going to find out why I was having obsessions.”

“Autism is described as being one part of the brain being bigger than the other. I think [for me] the bigger part has always been numbers and working out dates…and the smaller part is the social part. But as I grew up, I had to learn to manage different social situations, and I think that has helped the social side of my brain to grow, and the numerical side has shrunk…but they’re still not completely equal.”

On LiveBetter

It was Pat O’Donnell, Justin’s mentor, who first suggested he put himself forward for LiveBetter’s pilot Disability Employment Program, a program which offers people with disability mainstream employment opportunities.

“Pat knew I wanted to transition into mainstream work and that the content work I would be doing at LiveBetter wasn’t dissimilar to the work I do with my podcast. So, I had an interview… and then I started working here.”

Justin has really enjoyed the work, and the opportunity it has given him to develop his skills in a professional work environment.

“Working at LiveBetter has taught me to make sure I do everything in a professional way…and do it wholeheartedly.”

When Justin’s not busy being a Roving Reporter at LiveBetter, you might find him delving into the world of autism on his weekly podcast, As We Speak, or working on his book which talks about his personal experiences living with autism.

“Some people think that we can’t fit into society. That we just sit in the corner and rock, that we’re non-verbal, and that we’re all the same. Other preconceptions include that people with autism can’t work, or drive, or live independently. These are all myths of who people with autism are, and what they can achieve.”

For Justin, faith also plays a part in all that he does.

“For me, being a Christian means I give my all to my work. I want to do everything to the best of my ability – that’s what I believe.”

Justin believes that World Autism Awareness Day offers us all the opportunity to talk about autism and to better understand the valuable contribution people with autism can and do make to our communities.

“Autism Awareness Day celebrates the lives of people who live on the spectrum. We may think differently, and parts of our brain may work differently, but we’re just like everyone else.

Quick Questions

  1. What is the best thing about your work?

“Learning new things, and getting better at it, and giving it everything I have.”

  1. What is the most challenging thing about your work?

“I suppose adapting to new things, like learning organisational skills. But I am getting there, and it’s really important to me to be able to think for myself, and to work more independently.”

  1. Top tip to manage work-life balance?

“I like to put everything into all I do, all of the time. But you do need to be careful to not always be working, not always be thinking about work. Sometimes you just need to relax.”

  1. What keeps you going, getting up and doing it all again, each day?

“I think of each day as a moment in history, and I need to choose what I am going to do with it.

  1. Hopes for in the future. Where do you see yourself in five years?

 “I’m interested in working in media, and maybe advocacy for people with disability – that’s what I’ve got a passion for. I have a passion for people with disabilities being able to achieve things and move forward.”

  1. If there was one piece of advice you could give to someone on the autism spectrum who wants to move into mainstream employment, what would it be?

“You can do it! The way I started was by doing TAFE courses, just to get some qualifications. I gradually completed harder TAFE courses. It’s not necessarily going to be a quick thing. It may take a while, and you may just slowly transition into mainstream employment.” 

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