"Inclusion is a right, not a privilege." - Denise

My name is Denise and I am 25 years old. I am a Dutch person living in a Belgian border town. I am active in both countries. The best of both worlds, as I always like to say. I work as an activity coach with people with disabilities and as a swimming teacher where I pay extra attention to children who need extra support. In my spare time, I like to write and swim, take word drama classes and engage in the French language which I love dearly. I also enjoy reading books, spending time with my dog and being in nature.

For me, autism is mainly having a brain that is always working overtime: raging, dominating thoughts that constantly break the silence. I spend every moment processing information: assessing context, classifying, over-analysing, correcting and checking. In addition, I experience feelings very intensely. What I experience as positive is that I enjoy with my whole body and not only with my heart.

I am most proud of my perseverance and creativity. When I commit to something, I go for it with passion. I am currently in an intensive surgery and rehabilitation process and I had to learn to walk again twice after my toddlerhood. Because of my autism, things often run differently than normal, including my rehabilitation process. I always dare to choose to do things differently and thus in my own way. And I am proud of that!

What I would like to pass on to other people with autism is that sometimes you have to be brave to claim inclusion by expressing your needs. Make yourself vulnerable and tell others what you need and how they can help you. Inclusion is a right, not a privilege. Everyone belongs and our unique way of thinking is like another flower. Together, we make this world a beautiful place!

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