By Ian Williams
Braden Stockham is a 17-year-old high school student who’s an inspiration for most people his age.
He’s an accomplished public speaker, tour guide and hockey team captain and he’s regularly interviewed by the local Port Lincoln media for his many achievements.
Not bad for a young man with autism whose parents Ian and Marianne were confronted by a heartbreaking list of ‘nevers’ when he was diagnosed with the condition at the age of five.
He couldn’t speak and, according to Braden himself, the only way he was able to communicate with people was physically – often by hitting them.
“We were told that he may never have fluent speech, he may never show emotion, he may never play team sport, he may never drive a car – there were lots of ‘nevers’,” says Marianne.
“But he does all of those now and many more. Listening to him being able to articulate how his autism can make him feel is amazing. I’m in awe all the time because he comes out with things that I just didn’t ever realise he was in tune with.”
Braden is an ambassador for the local autism support group Kaleidoscope and won an Autism SA individual achievement award when he was 13 for his courage in speaking publicly about the condition.
He’s a regular speaker at community groups and school annual general meetings, explaining what it’s like to experience autism and giving hope to other families living with the condition.
“I just say what the truth is,” says Braden. “There’s no preparation beforehand, I just stand up there and talk. I don’t get nervous.
“I’ve always had autism so, to me, it’s a definition called normal – it’s like someone born without a foot or an arm, something they’ve always lived with.”
Through determination Braden is overcoming the usual communication barriers of autism and is now in a mainstream class in Year 11 class at high school. A former primary school teacher was so impressed he invited him to mentor a younger child with the condition.
“I try to seem him every fortnight when I’m not busy doing other things and help him out with his schoolwork. We both like boats so we build a few out of cardboard,” he says.
Braden is passionate about all things maritime and is a keen member of the Tacoma Preservation Society in Port Lincoln. The Tacoma is an historic fishing vessel and Braden volunteers as a weekly tour guide.
He says his photographic memory comes in handy helping to remember all the facts about the vessel, but Braden also loves his sport.
“I’ve been playing hockey for about nine years now – something they said I’d never do – and I’m captain of the under 18s. I’ll be going for A grade next year.”
Main headline image taken by Port Lincoln Times
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