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Announcement posted by Cindication 11 Sep 2019

For Immediate Release 11 September 2019


Chris Varney, Founder of the I CAN Network, has come a long way from when a mum named Lisa spoke to him about her disruptive child which the world had outcast as the “weird one” and she had been labelled the “bad parent”.

Her child was seen by many psychiatrists until one day they approached Lisa and said to her, “We are sorry to say that everything you find fascinating about your child is actually a problem.”

“Everything you thought you were doing right with your parenting, you’re actually doing wrong,” they informed her.

“Your child has Autism and he will be socially inept, obsessive and have anxiety.”

However, Chris Varney believes that people need to rethink Autism because Lisa did get it right.

Lisa was his mother.

Chris’ story is famously presented in his 2013 TEDx Talk, ‘Autism: How my Unstoppable Mother proved the experts wrong’. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1HQKB2txgY)

Chris, now 32 years-old, lives on the Autism Spectrum every day because he grew up with Asperger’s.

At the tender age of 16, he began advocating for children's rights and that year he became the Youth Ambassador for World Vision.

“When someone channels their Autistic traits into a specific focus area, that’s when what they thought was a negative, becomes a positive,” Chris said.

He went on to become National Co-Director of World Vision's youth movement and later, the 2009 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations.

As Youth Representative he put together a book, Dear Kevin which helped catalyse many practical outcomes for vulnerable children and youth.

He received the 2011 Monash University Student Alumni Award, the 2012 National Award for Youth in Advancing the Legal Rights and Interests of Children and Young People, the 2012 Future Justice Medal and the 2014 Monash Vice-Chancellor’s Social Inclusion Award.

However, in 2013 on completion of his Law Degree, Chris had a vision.

He wanted to see every child and young person on the Autism Spectrum say 'I CAN' to life's opportunities. So, he created a network and became the CEO (Chief Enabling Officer) that we know today, as the I CAN Network.

Now, in 2019 the I CAN Network is Australia’s largest Autistic-led organisation which currently employs more than 30 Autistic adults.

The organisation mentors over 1500 Autistic youth and through mentoring programs, partnerships, education and advocacy work in 90 primary and secondary schools across Victoria and Queensland. I CAN works closely with The Department of Education (Victoria and Queensland) and The Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.

“Currently we're based in Melbourne, Australia, with hopes to expand in years to come,” Chris said.

This Friday, 13 September 2019, the I CAN Network’s AWETISM Expo will be held at Docklands (Melbourne) celebrating the inclusion of Autistic secondary students and Autistic adult employers from major sponsor ANZ’s Spectrum Program. The I CAN Network plays a pivotal role in continuing to build the capacity of employers to hire, retain and develop Autistic people in their careers. This ‘AWETISM Expo’ gives students a chance to exhibit, present and see career pathways unfold.

The I CAN Network’s AWETISM Expo became an annual event in 2015.

“The Expo is an event where students put the ‘AWE’ in Awetism!”

Last year the I CAN Network’s AWETISM Expo attracted more than 200 guests growing in statue this year to well over 300 attendees this year.

The Expo is a safe space for Autistic students to make new friends and meet like-minded people and it is also a place for educational professionals, family and friends to experience truly unique innovation to support young Australian Autistics. This year we see 100+ Autistic students attending with over 20 Victorian schools represented. 

Since 2017, AWETISM has been sponsored and hosted by ANZ Bank.

ANZ’s strategy with its sponsorship is to showcase its ‘Spectrum Program’, an internal program to actively employ Autistic people in ANZ, to Autistic high school students. 2019 sees the Expo upscale with the inclusion of DXC Technology and Specialisterne with support from the Department of Health and Human Services. 



I CAN Network AWETISM Expo 2019 - ‘Where Autistic students put the AWE in Awetism’, ANZ Bank Docklands, 833 Collins St Docklands, Victoria from 9.30AM - 2.30PM.

If you would like to interview Chris Varney or attend the I CAN Network’s AWETISM Expo please contact him on - 0432 405 384.


For more: https://www.icannetwork.com.au/

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