More than a decade ago, Bruce Meatheringham (BBehavSc(Hons) ’22), who is autistic with a learning disability, was working in a factory and had never thought that one day he’d attend university.
Today, he has successfully completed a behavioural science degree with majors in psychology and neuroscience, including Honours in Psychology and writing a thesis on Sensory Processing Sensitivity.
With a long list of achievements to his name, Bruce is advocating for autistic people as a national project advisor with Autism SA. He collaborates on autism research, has guest lectured at university and runs his own business presenting to groups on autism and autism sensory experience.
He got his start in public speaking in 2005 as a young man of just 20 years of age when he became involved in a public speaking group at Autism SA called Voices of Experience.
“Through Autism SA’s Voices of Experience, I was able to share some of my experiences as an autistic person in education and employment,” he says.
“I was also able to talk about self-advocacy. From there I became involved in mentoring autistic teenagers at Autism SA.”
Bruce’s advocacy work led to him being accepted into and later graduated from Autism CRC’s Sylvia Rodger Academy 2018 Future Leaders Program. The Program is designed to assist participants to become leaders in their communities.
More recently, Bruce has been working with researchers to ensure that autism research is relevant to, and appropriate for, autistic people and their communities.
“The catalyst for me getting involved in autistic coproduction research was discovering instances of offensive terminology towards autistic individuals in research,” he says.
“I’ve now worked on a number of research projects to ensure the research of autistic individuals uses respectful language and is meaningful and respectful to the autistic community.”
Bruce is also a national project advisor member with the Autistics’ Guide to Adulthood program with Autism SA for whom he develops learning modules for.
“I enjoyed my journey studying at Flinders,” Bruce says.
“I learnt how to think critically about research and my confidence, as a public speaker and in myself in general, increased.
“Flinders also accommodated my autism and my learning disability so I could learn effectively and not be disadvantaged by my disabilities.”
Bruce’s experience at Flinders helped shape his research skills and now has many plans for the future.
“I am considering undertaking a PhD and will continue to contribute to autism advocacy, particularly in the areas of education and employment,” he says.
“And I’d also like to do more in the area of raising awareness of the complexity of autism sensory experience, plus I’m aiming to do more autistic coproduction research too.”