Ky has autism.
He’s one of 230,000 in Australia.
That’s nearly one in every 100 people.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex lifelong developmental disability. It affects a person’s ability to communicate, interact with others and cope in everyday situations. While each person with autism is different, most struggle with social awareness and interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

In 2015, Ky’s dad had a vision. He sought to shine a light on the realities of a family living with autism, educate the wider community and provide support to families and carers of autistic children. Through Sentis’ iMind initiative, The Autism Project was born.

The project involved a number of activities designed to create awareness, including internal education for the Sentis team and a Wellbeing Workshop at Autism Queensland to support families and carers of autistic children.

But the most notable outcome of the project was the short animated film, Ky’s Story: Living with Autism.

Ky’s Story: Living with Autism

Ky’s Story: Living with Autism was launched in August 2016. Presented and narrated by actor Hugo Weaving, it explores the key characteristics of autism as experienced by his 16-year-old nephew Ky.

The first two scenes describe real examples from Ky’s life, with the third a glimpse into a possible future as to how Ky might channel his interests into employment opportunities.

For Ky’s father William, the animation provides a tool that can be used both professionally and personally to help educate the wider community about autism.

“For me it’s the first step for a conversation. As a family with an autistic child, it provides a tool to help people understand, whether it’s teachers and classmates at a new school, friends, or even extended family,” he explains.

Reach and impact

Within the first 24 hours, the story and animation attracted over one million hits across national media. Today, through ‘official’ sources like Sentis and the animation’s collaborators, it’s had nearly 500,000 views on Facebook and YouTube alone.

However, the true reach and impact of the animation is immeasurable. Available as a downloadable resource for use offline, it has reached as far as Asia, Europe, America and even Africa.

“We receive regular requests from businesses and individuals seeking to share the video,” says William.

“More than 200 businesses have taken it on board. We’ve even had people wanting to translate the video for use overseas. The response has been both exciting and humbling.”

Marie*, mother to an autistic boy, shared her response, demonstrating how impactful the film has been for both individuals and families experiencing autism, as well as those seeking additional understanding.

“Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad I watched it in private as it was certainly very emotional for me,” she begins.

“The description of the supermarket was bang-on. Feeling judged as a bad parent was a constant. My stress levels were always through the roof in public places.”

Marie recalls a memory during a grocery shop when her son had a meltdown, triggered by the sudden noise of a voice over the loud speaker.

“I handed him the iPad to distract him and calm him down. When I reached the checkout, a lady told me that when she had children they used to help with the groceries and discuss money and how to budget, and that it’s sad that kids are now given iPads instead,”

“Where do you start? I couldn’t speak because I knew I would just burst into tears.”

Despite each autistic person’s experience being different, for Marie the clip represents a true depiction of what autism can be like.

“It’s an effective way of getting a difficult message across. I hope that it gets people to think twice… that maybe something else is going on here and that it’s not just ‘bad behaviour’.”

April is Autism Awareness Month. Show your support and Go Blue for Autism in support of Autism Queensland.

Ky’s Story is a free resource and can be streamed on the Sentis website or downloaded for offline use. Our goal is for the animation to be shared as widely as possible and for organisations to be able to use this resource in educating their people and the community.

Ky’s Story was developed in collaboration with Hotel Lima and Griffith University Film School, and was proudly supported by the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, Autism Queensland and the Gold Coast University Hospital.

*Name changed for privacy.