Navigating the Abyss: Thomas' lived experience as a young person on the autism spectrum

S02E03 Navigating the Abyss: Thomas’ lived experience as a young person on the autism spectrum


A story of courage, hope and family. From the moments of deep despair to finding joy in taking risks and having a smile; Thomas provides an engaging insight into his experiences growing up as a young person on the spectrum.

Thomas provides an engaging insight into his experiences growing up as a young person on the spectrum. 

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[00:00:00] Thomas: Hi, all. Just a warning that some of the content in today’s podcast may be confronting or distressing for some listeners. If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on thirteen eleven fourteen or visit Well, I owe, I owe most of it to my mum. I, I love her to death. She is probably the most important person of my life during the darkest parts of the abyss I’ll be honest at least two suicide attempts. It, it was bad. I just, it was, And I felt after, you know, recovering from those attempts, I’d always hate myself even more. Cause I’m just like, Thomas, look what you’re doing to your mother. She, you’re stressing out, you know, she’s she’s doing so much for you and you just almost gave all of that up but I, I tried not to think of it that way.

[00:00:59] Michael: That was the voice of Thomas Sarnari, sound editor and voice creator on YouTube artist, acting enthusiasts, O TFC client, and a young person on the autism spectrum. Thomas’s story journeys from significant challenges to incredible achievements, including his own YouTube channel with over 50,000 subscribers.

Today we are very excited to introduce Thomas to you all. Welcome to the integration station.

Today we speak to Thomas about his experiences of school, therapy and life growing up as a young person on the autism spectrum.

The story starts with a discussion about Thomas’s week, his usual routine, and how this helps keep him busy, and also the inception of his YouTube channel. So what does your week look like in terms of some of your other activities?

[00:01:48] Thomas: It’s very, very busy. Monday I’ll have my 11 10 o’clock session with Nate, Nathan, he’s one of the OTs here. And then at 11 I’ll get picked up and then I’ll get dropped off at my other program, which is from a company called novita. It’s called the Transition to Work Program. I, I do an art sort of program there. So that’s very, that’s very nice. And then at about 2:30 that finishes up and I get, I go home and then I’m sort of just relaxing, you know, the rest of the night.

Tuesday transition to work again but I. It’s not in our program, it’s just more, I guess, learning about things like resumes and cover letters, that type of stuff. And then two 30 again, come home relax again you know, relatively quiet. Day. Wednesday, I see my mentor from about 10 o’clock to maybe five o’clock it goes for. We usually just chill out, do a bit of vr cause he has a VR headset. It’s really fun. And then Thursday, well Thursday I’ve already said, you know, music and then see the social groups. And then Friday, Friday I see my mentor again at about 12 o’clock to about four again. It’s, since it’s a short time, we usually go for like a hike.

I enjoy going for hikes or nature walks, things like that. And then Saturday from about 12 to two. I have actors class in the city at a group with a group called Actors Inc. It’s really fun. And then some days, the only day that I do nothing, I usually just go to my grandma’s house.

[00:03:15] Michael: So you finally get a rest. That’s a fairly busy week. So one thing I do also know, and for the listeners out there, they may or may not know, but Thomas also has a YouTube channel. Can you describe a bit about that? Because I’m looking at all the things that you’re doing in your week and I’m. I’m trying to find time for you to do some of this YouTube stuff.

[00:03:34] Thomas: Well, I started my YouTube channel in 2015, so I was about 11. Yeah, I was 11 when I started it. It was back in July and for a while, I was just sort of, I just watched a lot of YouTubers and I was like, I wanna make my own channel. I wanna do all this, I wanna do, make some content and as a kid I always grew up watching like dinosaur stop motions. That was the thing that I loved to watch. Cause I, I love dinosaurs. Even now. I wish they helped me get a job, but you know, you know, I do what I can. So I, I started, I did this little stop motion program thing. I don’t know if it’s a thing anymore, but it, you know, it was a pretty cool thi little program and that got me interested in stop motion.

So, You know, I got an iPad, I got some dinosaur toys, and I started making stop motions. Then over time I got bored of it and I was just thinking, I don’t really like doing stop motion that much anymore. And at this time I only had like 10 subscribers. I think. I remember I didn’t, I hadn’t have any. And then I made these weird videos, some people might know what they’re called youTube poops. Basically you get this video of anything and you just edit it. So everything’s really funny and a little bit crude. And I guess the editing style really caught on with me and I’ve decided maybe not those anymore cause they’re a little bit weird and I’m getting a bit older. I’m not finding them funny. I’ll try a bit of sound design, you know, editing some stuff. So I recorded myself just making weird noises and I would put effects on them. I’d slow them down and I thought, Hey, that doesn’t sound bad. I’ll upload it to YouTube.

They started to get a bit more views. I thought, Okay, maybe not just me. Get like other an I’ll get animals, I’ll get dinosaur sound effects, like from the Jurassic Series or whatever and I’ll edit those. They started to get bit more views and then I started doing mythical creatures like dragons and mermaids and stuff like that.

And then all of a sudden my channel just blew up. Like one day it had a hundred views and I was like, Okay, that’s pretty good. Then it had a thousand views and then a hundred thousand views and then a million. I’m like, What the hell’s happen? And then my channel, like subscriber wise, it blew up, it kept going, you know 1000 2000, 5,000, 10,000.

And then now I, I’m up to 52,000. Whoa. That’s a lot of people. And I’m, I’m so surprised as well, cuz I guess I am the harshest person to myself, so I always think, oh, Thomas, your content’s not that good. But a lot of people tell you know, it is, you know, I like listening to it. I like doing this well with it.

I like, you know, just watching it. I just like seeing you upload, which is, you know, it’s a nice thing nowadays. I’ve started water, the sound design plus it more being, doing more advanced sound design. It’s very, very hard. Mm. So I started getting into more voice acting. I guess because of actors’ class.

Okay. I’m learning to control my voice more better put more emotion into things. So I thought, you know, do a bit of voice acting. I do wanna do a bit of gaming, but I don’t have the stuff for, I don’t have a microphone. I don’t have editing software, so I want to get those. But I guess over time it, the channel’s just helped me express my creativity and it’s helped me sort of connect with more people.

Cause back, you know, I’d always be. More than, more than happy to just talk to my subscribers. Just tell ’em how I’m going. Tell ’em, Oh hey, I won’t be able to upload this week cuz of such and such happening. I’m, I just en enjoy. And a lot of people on this, on the platform, they’re very, very kind. They’re very understanding.

No one’s like, Well, tell me if you haven’t uploaded that, That sucks. Why, Why, why, Why aren’t you uploading? They’re like, Oh, that’s perfectly understandable, Thomas. Take as much time as you need and we’ll be right here waiting for you. So over it’s helped me. It’s helped me become much more social.

[00:07:01] Michael: So you mentioned that you’d started that when you were about 11 years old, or 2015 was when the channel started? What was your life like socially then? You were obviously still in primary school. What was your life like socially at that point and and how did the online world help you connect with others?

[00:07:18] Thomas: Back in primary school I was a much more social person. I was able to make friends very, very easily, I guess cause at that time I hadn’t matured completely, so I was able to just make, you know, stupid jokes and muck around with all the boys and all that.

[00:07:30] Michael: You don’t do that now with the social skills group as well?

[00:07:32] Thomas: I mean, I do that now. , No, I do that now, but I guess it was much easier back then. Yeah. And I was a bit of a troublemaker in my later years of primary school. That’s when I did. I would say that the worst, I haven’t even done very bad things. Like the worst thing in primary school’d, probably just be print a bunch of word vomit. Mm-hmm. . And so it wasn’t nothing bad. I haven’t, so nothing incriminating.

[00:07:53] Michael: So you’re not gonna say anything on this podcast and

[00:07:55] Thomas: No, I wouldn’t tell them.

[00:08:06] Michael: High school was a very challenging time for Thomas and mainstream school was short lived. Thomas reflects on high school socialization and his diagnosis.

So you talked a little bit about your social skills in primary school. How did that change when you hit high school?

[00:08:27] Thomas: It. It changed quite drastically and not in a good way, to be honest. I guess I was just so used to primary school. You, you know, you’d do all your subjects in one class, maybe you’d change for like art or language class. For mine, for me I was in Kidman Park and we did japanese yeah. And you’d maybe go to the library. Those were like the only place times you would leave the classroom to do something else that wasn’t a break.

And then high school hit, and I guess my brain just wasn’t ready. Every class you’d move somewhere else. There was, those kids are much older than me. Everyone was a bit more immature in a different way. I guess my brain was just what, what’s happening? And I, had this massive peak of anxiety up my brain. Just didn’t know what to the hell to do. Everyone else was just confused about like, what, tell us what’s happened. You know you were like this in primary school and then now all of a sudden you’re much quieter and all that. And I guess I sort of slowly drift away from my friends cuz they were interested in other stuff and they like playing basketball and I wasn’t a sporty kid and I’m still not that sporty now.

And so I used to just walk around the school grounds during breaks. I was very quiet. A lot of kids thought I was like, some emo or something like that. But yeah, I just had this massive spike in anxiety and depression. I was just, I felt so alone. It was, it was terrible. And I, I just couldn’t talk to anyone anymore.

I tried a few times, but it never really worked out. So then my brain was just gave up and it was, it was it was just so much different now.

[00:09:54] Michael: When were you informed of, of your ASD diagnosis?

[00:09:58] Thomas: I believe it was either in 2017 or 2018. I think it might have been late 2017 after I, I’d say it finished year eight and then I decided not to go back cuz I just, I just couldn’t.

And my mum was just, very concerned. You know, I love her to death and I just felt bad that she was just so worried about me and I don’t remember what the building that we went to, but I did it like a test, and then a few days later they sent the results and like, Oh yeah, you, your son has autism.

[00:10:25] Michael: Do you remember much about that time or what you felt or conversations at that point? Do you remember much about that?

[00:10:33] Thomas: I don’t remember too much. I just remember all the time I would just try and distance myself from everyone. During like work times in high school, I’d usually sit either under the table, I’d sit at the, the back corners and I’d just would look down at my work and I wouldn’t try and look at anybody and I just tried not to think of anybody. In high school they had this place. I believe it was room 28. I think that’s what it’s called, Room 28. This was in Findon High School and you’d have this like green card. Only some kids could get it that if you were overwhelmed or you just needed a timeout, you’d show the teacher this card and then you’d be able to just go there and just finish your work there.

But I never really did my work that I just sort of went up and sat down. I had some downloaded YouTube videos just to calm myself down and I’d also like sort of block myself from being seen by anyone else. So I’d get like chairs and things like that and I’d just sort of build this little, not really a fort, but just sort of this barrier just from, so no one else could see me cuz I just didn’t like being stared at. I just, it was such a weird time.

[00:11:34] Michael: So from that point, when did you realize that something was challenging? That, that you felt that how you were at school was, was not how others were experiencing school?

[00:11:47] Thomas: I would say the first few weeks. Mm-hmm. It was, it was quite a, I sort of noticed it quite easily.

I was like, everyone else is, you know, they’re, you know, they’re mucking around. They were having these cool jokes, and then there’s me and I’m, like, I’m not getting these jokes. I’m sort of not finding what they’re saying funny. What I, what I like. They’re no longer interested in, I guess, cuz I never, I’m, I’m like, I would say that I’m much more mature than someone my age, but in the same way I haven’t grown up entirely.

Like, I still like things that I did as a kid and, which is, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just a lot of people have changed so differently and like if I were to talk to ’em about that’re, like, they’d be like, Thomas, why do you still like this stuff? You know? We like that back when we were in like primary school, you know? It’s been so long. I guess my interests haven’t really changed too much.

[00:12:30] Michael: So you talked a little bit about some of the challenges at school and how, how you felt differently. You noticed it early on. Did you manage to make some friends at school? Did you have some friends there?

[00:12:42] Thomas: Yeah. Some of my friends from primary school they came with me to that high school, so I was able to talk to them if I was ever feeling down. And there was a few new, new friends, most of I didn’t get along with too well. Like, I was able to make jokes with them, they’d laugh but I always felt like I couldn’t connect with them as much as I could with other people back in primary school. And I guess again, cuz they’d always be playing basketball or they’d be like talking about girls and stuff like that. And at the time I wasn’t too interested in girls. I was just, I just, you know, wanted to be, I wanted to fit in, I wanted, I wanted mates, I wanted stuff like that. I sort of just, yeah, grew up, grew distant from them, like I hope they’re all doing good now. I try to put the past behind me. You know, I am who I am now, and you know, that’s, that’s good enough for me.

[00:13:30] Michael: Thomas has been a client of O T F C since early 2020. In that time, he’s engaged in individual and group therapy as well as camp evolve in 2021. Thomas discusses that despite a lack of therapy for a number of years, family and mentor support has been important in guiding him out of the abyss. You obviously have been involved in, in different therapies. Mm-hmm. , is that, is that correct? OT, as I mentioned, came on what I think when you saw me in 2020, I think we first met. Then. What about some other therapies that have been part of your life and I guess the impact they’ve had?

[00:14:06] Thomas: Well beside OTFC for a while there was no other therapy, but I had a few mentors from a company called Autism SA. And the first one, I couldn’t see him too often cuz he had children and he was, he was always canceling, you know, which I get cuz you know, when you have kids, , they’re very stressful. I’m sure you would know that

Then the second one, again, I won’t say his name for privacy reasons, but he was just like, he was a breath of fresh air. You know, My family loved him. I didn’t appreciate him until recently. Cuz again, back in that time I was just depressed. I didn’t, I didn’t like anything. I was just always, you know, Oh, I want to die. I wanna do all of this. You know, lots of sad, you know, teenager stuff. A lot of teenagers are, are in that sort of, in that, in that abyss, I would say for, for most of their young years.

But you know, he’d always, he’d always take me outta my comfort zone, which was a good thing. I’d, even though I’d get nervous about it or I wouldn’t wanna. Reflecting back on, I’m like, I’m very glad that he did that. He’d, you know, he’d take me places like say to a bowling place. You know, I wasn’t, I didn’t like bowling, but over time I started to, I’m, I’m not that good at it, but I just enjoyed doing it.

You know, he, he taught me lots of things about just adult life. He showed me I guess how to get my license. And although I failed at that time, I tried again this year and I got ’em, so, Hmm. If I probably would’ve been too nervous to try this year if, if I hadn’t tried before and then grew as a person and then I’d tried again this year.

And then I, I saw a few more mentors from Autism SA after that, but over time a lot of stuff has happened with Autism SA, so I don’t really see any mentors from them anymore. And then, I did more stuff with Novita. They had a life skills class from Wednesdays to Fridays from about 9:30 to 3.

And that was about 11 months I took, Yeah. All the classes were 11 months. Oh yeah. And then there was some sort of excursion groups with a company called AHH, Life Skills. They had mentor programs. One of the mentor that I see Wednesday, the Fridays, he’s from AHH and he’s a very lovely person.

He’s also on the spectrum you know, and I, me and him, we, we’ve got a good friendship going because I guess cuz we relate on such a, such, a good level, I guess, if that makes sense. And then I guess, I think that’s about it, to be honest. And beside the stuff that I do now, the transition to work group, other than that, I, you know, I saw OTFC and at first I was very quiet. I didn’t, I was like, Oh, I was unsure if I wanted to continue. I was like, oh but you know, I, I always get tired. I didn’t like doing the sport. But then, you know, I started talking. I started talking a bit more. It helped me, my confidence. Doing exercise in the morning is such a good thing to help just brighten your mood up for the day and you, Over time, it gave me more confidence.

And nowadays it’s a big role in my life and I love it so much. Sometimes I’m like, Oh, I wish the session was longer. I wish I could do it for two hours or three hours. Just, oh, you know, it’s a good thing.

[00:17:04] Michael: That’s fantastic to hear. And it sounds like the last few years you’ve been involved in a lot of those therapies and those supports and they have helped you become the person you are today. A lot of it is yourself, but a lot of it has also been supported by those, those around you. You mentioned before about the abyss. I like that word, the abyss. And for someone who creates, sounds of mythical creatures it just is a very Thomas word. The abyss. Can you tell me a little bit about how you went from that to where you are today?

What strategies, what things did you have in place? What supports did you have? I know you talked a bit about some of those therapies, but obviously your mum has been very heavily involved in supporting you along that journey as well. Can you tell me a little bit about how you went from the abyss, to where we are today?

[00:17:51] Thomas: Well, I, I owe most of it to my mum. I, I love her to death. She is probably the most important person in my life. During the darkest parts of the abyss, I’ll be honest, I had at least two suicide attempts. It, it was bad. I just, it was. And I felt after, you know, recovering from those attempts, I’d always hate myself even more. Cause I’m just like, Thomas, look what you’re doing to your. Mother, you’re stressing out. You know, she’s doing so much for you and you just almost gave all of that up. But I, I tried not to think of it that way.

As I started seeing more mentors, they sort of, you know, took me outta my comfort zone. Took me to places, sort of started getting me back in with the community and, you know, I started changing a little bit. So instead of just being a quiet and sounding very monotone, I’m a little monotone now, but that’s sort of just me. I’d try and improve my emotion cause I, I’d see the way that they talk and they’re very friendly with their voice and I think, okay, if that works for other people, maybe I’ll try it.

And over time it started working, you know, I was a very polite person, A little reserved, but you know, meaning well. And I think that’s what I like to think of myself as other methods. So when it wasn’t with mentors or activities, if I was just at home, I do a bit of gaming, I still do that now. It’s just something to pass the time, cuz.

If I was left alone just with no gaming stuff, nothing to read, nothing to play with, I would have pretty bad thoughts. So I’d always do what, you know, do a bit of gaming to sort of distract myself in a way that I watch, you know, watch videos, watch something funny cuz that always puts me in a good mood, you know, watch a bit of stuff nowadays.

Yeah, I continue with most of those strategies, you know, watching something funny, bit of gaming. I try to talk to people every now and then. I still feel like I’m not the most talkative person, but a, a lot of, a lot of kids on the spectrum, they don’t really like talking to people. They sort of do it cuz you have to.

But I would say for me, outside of, you know, being with mentors, doing activities, I’d say getting out is the best thing to do. But for someone like me, it was watching something funny and you know, gaming, sort of distracting yourself from those bad thoughts.

[00:20:04] Michael: There are really, really big points in there and thank you for, for sharing first and foremost. You mentioned a few strategies that work for you, just generally advice for a young person on the spectrum. What, are some things that you would say having gone from where you were in primary school to where you are now? What are some things that you would say for those maybe that are experiencing the same level of difficulty or feel like they can’t get out of that abyss, what are some things that you might pass on to those people?

[00:20:34] Thomas: Take risks. It might seem bad at first and sometimes it might end up bad. I, I’ll be completely honest, sometimes you might take a risk and sometimes it might not work. But who cares? You’ve got so many more years ahead of you.

The amount of risks that you’ll take, you’ve got a higher chance of it working out than it not working out. And if the risks end up being a good thing, that could benefit you in so many more ways and it could, you know, could give you a disadvantage.

[00:21:00] Michael: When you talk about risks, what sort of risks are you, I’m assuming you’re talking about safe risks?

[00:21:04] Thomas: Yeah and I’m not saying do drugs, all of that. I’m just like, no, go outside more, start doing a bit of exercise, try talking to people. Even if it, even if it’s just like saying hello to someone just, and that’s, you know, just put a smile on your face and over time you’ll just realize, you know, that’s a good way of living. I should, you know, smile more, be friendly to people cuz that’s, it is just a good thing to.

[00:21:28] Michael: Do you remember when you started to make that? Was it a, was it a progressive thing when you made that decision to try and take more risks or to, to try and do those sort of things a little bit more?

[00:21:37] Thomas: I guess, yeah, it was a progressive thing. It took a while. At first, I was very negative about taking risks. I didn’t want to do them. Even if they ended up benefiting me, I still didn’t like them. But over time I realized, you know, hey, taking these risks, it’s helped me in so much, in so in so many ways, and I’ve become a better person because of it.

I should start taking more risks. And I sort of been doing, and I’ve been saying yes to all these programs and they’ve been helping me even more. So I think in a way, just taking the risk, you know, having a chance of you know, doing good it helped me quite a lot.

[00:22:16] Michael: You have had some really strong connections through the social skills group, correct?

[00:22:20] Thomas: Yeah.

[00:22:21] Michael: How, when you first started, how did you view the group compared to where it is now and how important have those in person connections and relationships being for your ability not only to make but maintain friendships?

[00:22:35] Thomas: When I first started social groups, I felt again, outta place. That’s what I, that’s how I usually feel sometimes when I start something new. You know, a lot of these guys, they started talking. I was like, okay they, they seem to get along with each other quite well maybe it might, maybe they might not like me or something like that. But over time, you know, I’ve got, I’ve gotten to know them. They’re all great people. I, I enjoy that I’m able, I enjoy the fact that I’m able to joke around with. Which is a great thing. I love making jokes with people. And it’s just sort of helped me in a way also get used to people my age and also get used to people on the spectrum because I’ve spoken to girls on the spectrum, it’s quite different.

Not nothing wrong with them, it’s just simply I didn’t expect it. So I was like, Oh, all are all other autistic people like this are, they all sort of don’t like talking and some of us don’t like we, we don’t all like socializing and we don’t have all things to say. There’s a lot of, if you speak to an autistic person, like, like myself, you get, you get ready for a bit of silence as in like, if you say a question, you answer it, It was like, Oh, how is your day?

Oh, it was good. Just a bit of quiet.

[00:23:40] Michael: Unless you’re asking questions on a podcast like this,

[00:23:42] Thomas: Unless you’re doing something like this, there’s a lot of talking going on. But I guess it’s got, it’s gotten me used to that type of silence, which can be good. It’s not always awkward. And it’s also helped me sort of understand other people on the spectrum.

Cause we’re not all the same. We don’t always act the same, we don’t think the same things. Sometimes we can do things very similar, but everyone’s different. And I guess over time it’s sort of, it’s helped. It’s helped me understand it’s helped me build friendships, especially the group cuz we’re all doing things together so I’m able to make jokes and, you know, make the guys laugh.

And that definitely, you know, strengthens the friendships that we have. So it, it’s a very good thing.

[00:24:20] Michael: How would you define autism or, or living with autism? What, does that look like for you? Because as a health professional, I have definitions and I have things that are written. As someone, the lived experience is probably the most valid I guess explanation or definition, what, what does it mean for you?

[00:24:39] Thomas: For me, autism just means thinking differently or thinking outside the box. Sometimes people are different. You know that everyone’s on a different area of the spectrum. Some people a bit more than others, like some people aren’t able to speak, but, you know, we’re all, we’re all human. You can sometimes tell if someone’s on the spectrum.

Sometimes just by the way they think they might just all of a sudden be able to think of all these marvelous things like how hell did he think of that? My mum always thinks that the guy, well the caveman who invented the wheel was on the spectrum because of just thinking outside the box. So you think, why would they wanna make that all of a sudden?

[00:25:16] Michael: That’s fantastic.

[00:25:17] Thomas: So I sort of agree with that. I think just the definition of autism to me is thinking outside the box.

[00:25:33] Michael: Recent changes in South Australia saw the inaugural assistant minister for autism with the aim to provide support for people with autism in the state. Included in this is the suggestion of an autism advisor within each school. I asked Thomas about this and what school would look like if he were in that.

Okay. Forget the politics side of things. As someone on the spectrum, how, how do you think or, that’s a question in itself. Do you think the person who is the minister or advocate for ASD for the government should be someone with an autism spectrum disorder?

[00:26:10] Thomas: I think so. Honestly, it, it sort of takes one to know one in a way. Just things I would like to see. Is more support in schools like, you know, a few mentors, especially in high schools, cuz that’s where, that’s where most kids on the spectrum drop out. They drop outta high school.

[00:26:25] Michael: Why do you think, why do you think that is?

[00:26:27] Thomas: I think it’s similar things to me. I think they don’t fit in, I think it’s the, the sudden change from primary school to high school is very drastic and in a way, they just probably just feel like they don’t belong. And I imagine , you know, sure I’ve suffered a little bit, but I, I feel like there’s definitely people out there who have suffered way more than me, and I feel like they, if they’re still in high school, they deserve this help way more. And I hope they’re getting it now, honestly. And so the other thing would be perhaps some subjects more suited to interest someone on the spectrum.

Like there are probably some things in maths where it’s a who cares, who wants to learn about it. And then when you grow up, you don’t ever use it. I get things like percentages and stuff like that and sure I didn’t finish high school. I did online schooling after high school up to year 11, but I can sort of talk.

I, can talk, but you know, I never, I never did the advanced subjects, but I’m just thinking you don’t need all of them. I’m just feeling like have something that would interest not only people on the spectrum, but just people not on the spectrum. You know, sort of more a varied yeah, bigger variety of subjects, I think.

[00:27:31] Michael: What sort of subjects would you have if you were running a school curriculum? What would be on your list of subjects to have at a school?

[00:27:37] Thomas: For instance, like History. Not only would I have human history, I’d have a bit of pre-history, not just dinosaurs, but like also ice age stuff, learning about life before there was, you know, biological life on earth.

Like say, you know, when the, you know, the Big Bang happened and all that type of stuff. I’d have subjects like biology and more, learning more about like animals and the environment, especially cuz nowadays everyone’s always talking about how we need to help the environment. We need to do more energy efficient ways of living, things like that.

So I think learning about the environment, learning about animals, learning about why they’re important to us, and learning about why things go extinct, things like that, that would be very interesting, at least for someone like me to learn.

[00:28:21] Michael: You talked a bit about your YouTube channel before and you mentioned I think it was about over 50,000 subscribers, which is more than OTF C’S Facebook page. So you got one up on us there, Thomas. Well done.

[00:28:35] Thomas: Thank you.

[00:28:36] Michael: But what are some other hobbies that you have, some other things that you enjoy doing in your sparetime?

[00:28:40] Thomas: Beside gaming and stuff like that, I’ve enjoyed drawing. I loved art since I was about a year old and I always used to paint I used to just paint just anything really. But over time, I wasn’t too interested in painting. I still do it now every now and then, but I love drawing. I have sketch books. I have one in my bag right now. And sometimes in my free time, I’ll just sketch. Usually in my transition to work program. During the breaks I’ll sketch and I’ll usually just draw, like, you know, animals or I’ll draw made up creatures that I’ll think of or like monsters and stuff like that.

Sometimes I’ll draw superheroes, like I enjoy drawing my own Spiderman costumes and things like that. So, you know, drawings of very big interest. Sometimes. It’s, I haven’t really done it too much, but a bit of filmmaking. I used to do a filmmaking class in the holiday. They did it twice. And just that type of thing was very, very interesting to me.

But it’s also very difficult for one person to do by themself. So if I ever had the chance to make like a short film with someone, I would, I would relish that opportunity. And just, yeah just have me expressing my creativity. Just, you know, showing all the things that I can do. It, it, that’s stuff that interests me quite a bit, to be honest.

[00:29:56] Michael: Do you find that, cuz we were talking before the podcast, just about your, your schedule and your week, and I think we even talked about it earlier. Do you find time to do that? Do you think that those hobbies and those interests are an important part of your wellbeing and what helps you feel as though you’re living your life to the, to the fullest? Do you find enough time to get to do those things?

[00:30:19] Thomas: Yeah, I usually try to find time, usually in the breaks of my programs. I’ll do a bit of sketching. It helps me calm down quite a, quite a lot. Sometimes I’ll be thinking of things and I’ll get a little stressed, but then I’ll be like, Thomas, let’s just do a bit of drawing.

You know what if I draw this thing and you’re like this dragon and it’s got like cool wings and all that, and I’ll draw that and then I will not think about the things that are stressing me out. I’ll just think about the drawing and it calms me down. So I try to find time less than I think of if I have time or not I just try to find it.

[00:30:49] Michael: I’ll pick you up on your drawing and you’re interested in drawing. I know when we were doing one of our social skills groups recently we discussed the concept of drawing or creating characters that were alter egos, if you will, of ourselves and represented the things that we struggle with.

Can you tell a little bit, a little bit about your character that, that, that you made and, and how that alter ego reflected some of your challenges?

[00:31:20] Thomas: So yeah, we did like this. We were going to do this project where it was us like facing off against these eve versions of ourselves that, yeah, manifested things that we struggle with.

So mine was based more about anxiety. So my character was, he looked a little bit similar to me as I did a few years ago when I was younger. And, you know, I was depressed and very anxious. So I had, he has bags under his eyes. He doesn’t have a mouth because back then I would always either put something around my mouth like a mask or something like that just to cover up.

And I feel like him not having a mouth is sort of representing you know, me always being anxious or too nervous to speak at all. He’s quite lanky cuz you know I’m a very tall person. At least I hope I am. And in a way sometimes, honestly, sometimes he’s too tall because sometimes I would think that I’m not tall enough especially in primary school.

It’s a weird thing to say, but in primary school, I wasn’t the tallest and sometimes I wish I was. I, I’m happy with where I am in terms of height, honestly, but, That’s why I made him very tall and then I made him able to run very far because I always struggled with running very far distances, especially nowadays, like I’m not like a marathon runner.

But I remember in primary school this one time we did like sports day, we’d have relay races and I would, I’d never win, obviously you know, oh well, but I’d always be like, oh, I wish I could win. I’d always have thoughts of me winning and honestly, I don’t care nowadays, but as a kid, I, I’d be obsessed with it.

And he’s also got four arms. This design the reason is to hold you back. So if you like whatever, think, Oh, I’m gonna go talk to that girl over there, this character would come up behind you and he’d hold you back with all four arms and he’d sort of, he wouldn’t be able to speak with his mouth, but he’d sort of speak to you telepathically. And he’d sort of make you regret or think about what your, your action was and make you yeah sort of regret doing it or regret thinking about it and he, the way they’d speak to you is sort of like a whisper. So he’d be very quiet and if you made him mad, he would raise his voice by quite a lot.

And I think in a way that sort of represented me as a younger kid, cuz I was always quiet, but then when I got mad I got really, really mad. So I, I try not to get mad anymore. I know sometimes I get a little bit annoyed with my mum, but lot lots of kids do that lots of kids get annoyed with their mum quite easily compared to like, with their mates or whatever.

I think it’s just cause you know, you’re able to. Let yourself go at home. You know, you’re very relaxed and all that, but out in public, for me at least, I’m sort of a bit more reserved than I am when I’m with like good friends or I’m at home.

[00:34:10] Michael: Self-regulation is such a key part to managing behaviors and preventing one’s self from getting hijacked by their emotions. Thomas provides some insight into strategies that work for him and how this supports his.

How do you stop yourself from responding in a particular way when the emotions are so strong?

[00:34:34] Thomas: Breathing , I try and slow my my breathing down. I’d think about, you know, I was like, Thomas, if you get mad, what happens if you do this?

And it’s like, All right. Yeah, that’s a good point. I should calm down. As I said, I’ll leave the area. I’ll usually try and like sort of put some music on or watch something funny, take my mind off. And then once I’ve calmed down, I’ll go find the person I got mad at and, and I’ll apologize. I’m usually the one to apologize cuz I’m, I’m a nice person. Like to think of myself as one.

[00:34:59] Michael: How long does that process take?

[00:35:01] Thomas: It can take a while. It could sometimes take maybe a few minutes. So it could sometimes take, take a few hours. It sort of varies. It depends on how mad I get.

[00:35:10] Michael: Do you find yourself going through that process at home and in the community? Is it still something that happens to this day?

[00:35:19] Thomas: It’s rare, but it does happen. It’s very, very rare to happen in public. It usually just happens at home. It’s probably cause I’m Italian, so I’m loud . But yeah, I’d say it happens more at home than it does in the public, I guess cuz of my anxiety, I’m, I get too nervous to be mad in public cuz I’m just like, Oh, what if all these people look at me?

Obviously, Most of the people, they don’t care. They don’t know enough in information to really have a say. But I, I usually just try and be more quiet and reserved in public than I am at home.

[00:35:56] Michael: I’ve got a few extra questions they’d like to ask guests at the end. Some more fun or playful questions and one actually ties back to what we were talking about before about the future. If I ask you this, would you rather see the future or go back in time?

[00:36:11] Thomas: Probably because I love dinosaurs. I’d go back in time.

[00:36:14] Michael: Yes. I knew you were gonna say that. I was hoping for that and I would absolutely join you on that.

[00:36:19] Thomas: Yeah. Plus the future. I like it being a surprise, you know, sort of like a, you know, Wait, wait and find out sort of.

[00:36:26] Michael: Favorite toy or figurine as a child And you might still have it now. I don’t know.

[00:36:30] Thomas: I definitely still have it. I still have ’em now. I do wanna start selling them, but I have a bunch of Godzilla figures. Godzilla’s been a big part of my life as well. My grandfather introduced Godzilla to me. He was talking about, oh, Thomas there’s this film called Godzilla, about this big lizard that comes ashore and starts destroying a city and all that.

And I was like, I was like, Why does, I didn’t really care. But he is like, Oh, it’s sort of like a big dinosaur. I was like, Oh, I’m interested now. And then just over time, I just, I love the character. I watched the movies. I got a few figures of my, of him and yeah, with, with the favorite toy thing I would say it’s probably a, like a vinyl Godzilla figure to, it’s one, it’s not very articulated you can sort of move the arms, move the legs, maybe move the head. One of those would probably have to be one of my favorite figures that I still have as a kid.

[00:37:12] Michael: Now. Do you have a favorite video game?

[00:37:15] Thomas: Ooh. As I’ve got a few, but I’d say my number one favorite video game is Arc Survival evolved. And then my other favorite game is Minecraft but I just love how much I can express my creativity. I love, I love how much I can build in that game. And it’s also another good thing to play with mods as well.

[00:37:32] Michael: Do you have a favorite kid’s TV show? A favorite show. Do you remember from when you were growing up?

[00:37:37] Thomas: Yeah, I’d say so. I don’t really watch TV too much anymore. A lot of kids my age don’t, but I grew up with Adventure Time. I love that show to death. It’s, it’s still good now. I’d watch it if Binge didn’t edit the hell out of it. Like, they’ve cut a lot of scenes from the, and I’m like, Oh, why do they remove that? It was so funny. It’s just a good show.

[00:37:58] Michael: One more thing I will ask is just family in general. Is it a big part of your life? Is it something that has always been there? You mentioned about your grandfather as well and him introducing you to, to Godzilla. Has family always been there and has always been supportive? How, how much of a role has that had in your life?

[00:38:14] Thomas: I would say, so my family’s always been there for me. I remember when I was very cause we’re Italian, we’re all living together. But over time, you know, my aunt, I had, I, my family mainly consists of, at the moment two aunties, my grandma, my grandfather, my mother and my cousin who is about two or three now.

But before he was born, when I was, when I was a baby, it was just all, all of us living together. But then over time, it turned into just me and my mum living together. We lived in a different house. But my family stayed supportive throughout at the moment we’re still trying to say supportive but my grandfather is battling cancer.

So, you know, my mum, she’s, it’s affecting her a lot. So I’m trying to be there for her since she’s been there for me my entire life. So it’s only fair that I’m there for her every step of the way and, you know, I’ll never leave her.

[00:39:02] Michael: Someone who obviously has very strong family values. You can, and you can hear that just in the way you are reflecting. You mentioned, I’d like to think I’m a nice person, and I think anybody that’s listening to this today would certainly agree that you are more than just a nice person. You are a, a very humble and very honest and true friend to anybody that you’re with.

So Us. here at OTFC we just wanna say thank you Thomas, very much for coming in and having a chat today and hope to spend some more time with you in the future.

[00:39:31] Thomas: Oh, thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure to be here.

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