by David Nicholson, Conservative Party Member
When I was young boy I knew I was different. I was quiet. I was shy. I was a loner and did not make friends with many people. I was bullied and teased by young people who regarded me as a freak and an alien. I was obsessed about trains, stamps, folk music, politics and working hard on family’s small farm. To some people these interests were a joke that made me seem like a strange individual. That did make make upset. Why did I act the way that I did? Why did I not fit in? Why did people tease me?
The answer to that came in early 2005 when staff at the High School that I attended in Fife identified me as having Aspergers Syndrome. That came as a shock to my parents but I was relieved to finally have a reason as to the way I acted. Did being identified as being autistic make me sad? No it didn’t. I just got on with life as best as I could. I was determined that the condition would not hold me back from what I intended to do in life. I wanted to approach my condition with a strong positive attitude despite the challenges I faced socialising and communicating with people. I was brought up by my parents to be courageous and to be a fighter and that’s the attitudes I wanted use when dealing with my condition.
Being autistic did make me determined to do what I could to help other people with the condition. I went to a few support groups in Fife and met some wonderful people with autism. It was through going to these support groups that I realised that there was a multiple set of problems that faced people on the autism spectrum from getting on in life. I wanted to work hard to try and bring positive change and ensure that autistic people could get the support that they needed to get on in life and fulfil their potential. I was so sad that too many people on the spectrum were unhappy and not getting the right support.
I was encouraged by my Headteacher to get involved in politics and to make a positive difference to the local and wider community. I will always be thankful to him for all his wonderful advice and encouragement. I wrote letters to the then Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition Scottish Government on issues around autism and engaged with my local MSP on issues around autism. I went to Sweden for a week in November 2007 to examine what Sweden was doing to support people with autism in education and the workplace. That was a great experience. Meeting other people with autism in another country was a truly moving moment for me. To hear their stories only further strengthened my resolve that I had a duty, a lifelong duty, to help my peers get the support they needed to participate fully within society. For the past 10 years I’ve spoken at various autism conferences in the UK, spoken at the Scottish Parliament and in Westminster and through these events have made an impassioned plea that this country can be the most autism friendly country in the world so long as it helps people on the spectrum get the support that they need excel and be happy.
In 2013 I joined the Conservative Party and have made friends with some exceptionally kind and supportive people. These people and others I’ve met in other political party’s have done a huge amount to lift my confidence and they see me in a positive light. They see me for who I truly am and they don’t regard my autism in a bad light. Through political activism I’ve been able to make friends (hurrah) and now can leave the negative people, the bullies, the simply misunderstood folk behind.
I’m determined through being a member of a political party to continue to raise autism awareness and make more people aware that whilst people like me can be a bit eccentric, a bit odd that we have potential and talent to do very well if we are given a chance. I do want to stand as Conservative candidate one day and show people that autism is no barrier to being successful in politics despite the challenges that politics can bring about.