MILD anxiety issues have not stopped a Bassendean Primary School student with autism from accomplishing his goal of being elected as a student councillor.
Oakley Matson (10) is part of a five-member student council, which consists of his fellow Year 6 classmates, Lucy Coates, Toby Criddle, Monique Hutchings-Reis and Rose McCaskie.
It was the first time a student with autism spectrum disorder had been elected.
Oakley said he delivered a speech to his peers who voted him to the council.
“I decided to do it for this semester with all my friends…it feels perfect,” he said.
He said he wanted to become an artist when he grows up.
His mother, Kylee, said she was proud of her son’s achievement.
“Obviously it is amazing… it shows that he can accomplish what he wants when he puts his mind to it,” she said.
“He has a good peer network and the kids are very supportive and very helpful.”
Ms Matson said Oakley went from having no speech at three years old to gradually being introduced to mainstream education programs at seven years old.
“He has needed less and less support for the daily activities which before he was having support just to be in the playground at lunch time to help him integrate with the other kids,” she said.
Ms Matson said anxiety and social skills were a big part of autism.
“In the early days, I would describe his anxiety as quite crippling for him but he is very good at managing that himself as he gets older, he puts his own self-management strategies in,” she said.
“Just trying to get into an assembly was hard work, he would have to have earphones, an iPad, a heavy rug and he would call out and get very anxious.
“Now, he kind of gets up there with confidence and pride and addresses the assembly.”
Principal Pamela Hahnel said the school aimed to focus on Oakley’s needs to be the best he could be.
“We are really privileged to work in a primary school… it’s a great thing to do to work with children who each have their individual challenges,” she said.
“But I think one thing that is really important is there is a partnership between home and school and that is what we do for all of our students.”
International Autism Awareness week commences on March 27.