"Therapy has helped me to understand myself better." - Lidiya

My name is Lidiya and I'm 15 years old. I was born in Ethiopia, but I've lived in the Netherlands for pretty much my entire life. I live with my parents, my sister and two cats. Currently, I’m at the VSO TL in the final year and I am also taking two extra courses.

Every Friday night I’m going to athletics; My favorite discipline is running. My role model is Sifan Hassan who is also from Ethiopia. I love listening to music too and I am a fan of the Weeknd (how could I not, he has Ethiopian roots). I like to draw, like to watch thrillingmovies or series, I love Disney, and I like to read as well.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 10. I experience a lot of stimuli in busy spaces. Fortunately, I have a private taxi when I go to school, which gives me more peace of mind than a bus full of other students would. I don't like going to birthday parties, because they get too busy very quickly. When I’m at a party, I occasionally look for a quiet spot. Luckily, my family knows why I need rest and they help me with this. New social situations are difficult to me, because I don't know how others might react to me.

I am proud of my perseverance; I've been through a lot in the past. It took me a while to understand why I react differently in comparison to many of my peers. Therapy has helped me to understand myself better. I recently became a volunteer at the Nederlandse Verenigingvoor Autisme [Dutch Autism Association]. You can find pictures of me on the AutismeFonds[AutismFund] website.

At the end of last June, I got to meet the Ethiopian ambassador. That was amazing. There is a lot of prejudice in Ethiopia about autistic people, and the ambassador would like this to change. I want to help with that.

My tip for people with autism: Dare to say you have autism. By talking about this very often, others can learn about you, so they can understand you better.

To people who don't have autism, I would like to say: learn what autism entails. Listen to the people who are autistic and you will notice that we are ordinary people too, but our brains just work slightly different.

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