By Liam McGinley

My name is Liam McGinley, I am 17 years and am diagnosed with autism. I go to secondary school. School was the only place where I could be sociable but I would sometimes walk about by myself minding my own business during school intervals because I felt comfortable with it, apart from that when I was at home I went onto my laptop.

When campaigning for the Scottish Parliament came in September 2015, my mum joined the SNP activists group to campaign for her constituency to get Humza Yousaf elected for Greater Pollok. On the 30th of October 2015, my mum invited me to go to the Pearce Institute for Humza’s adoption night where we had a Pakistani traditional meal. This is where I started to get involved in politics. I started canvasing for Greater Pollok On the 3rd of February 2016. When I went to the doors I went around with one of the canvassers while holding the leaflets. At first I wasn’t able to talk at the doors because I didn’t have the confidence to be able to do that. I didn’t even know what to say at the doors so I decided to listen to the other canvassers and hear them speak at the doors. As the days passed by I began trying to talk at a door for the first time when I was in Penilee and I felt a bit empowered by having a sense of achievement. The fellow canvassers who I worked with were really kind and they even let me talk at the doors if I wanted to, I felt like not only part of the group but I felt like I was a grown mature man when I canvassed. I would even come home feeling positive and my self-esteem was high, also the fact it got me out of the house was a big help. I am thinking of becoming a councillor, which I know will take years of dedication and hard work, not only helping in the community but also to help with my mental health.

I am writing this blog to tell people about my worries I have dealt through my life and how politics is a career path to helping me deal with my problems.

It started when I was 7 years old at school. When I went to the toilet during lunch when I had a confrontation with another boy from my class in there, he attacked me but it wasn’t a serious attack, he was just hitting and grabbing me. I can’t remember why though but it led up to a massive problem for me. When he attacked me I ended the ordeal by pushing him on the cubicle wall and then he started running away crying. Then the next day in school when I went to the toilet the same boy attacked me again with him hitting and grabbing me and after that he ran out the toilet crying. Ever since then I worried about those two incidents from primary 2 up to about primary 4 roughly. Back in 2008 before the Christmas holidays we had major free time during class. When it was over my teacher told me to go on the maths computer, and after that I could have a rest. When I went and clicked on my name to confirm it was me on the computer the teacher told everyone to gather around for an announcement, I asked the teacher if I could go on the other computer and she let me do so. However after the school day I worried about not finishing my work on the maths computer. Because I knew everyone had a turn on the maths computer a day and I didn’t finished my on it which made me worry about it for the entire Christmas holiday. Now looking on it I think it was a bit immature for me to do that but at that time I was only 9 years old coming on 10.

When I was in 2nd year during secondary school, I was going to my registration class I got told by one of the pupils who was sitting across the table to stop staring at people, I didn’t know what that pupil meant by that but three months later, the same pupil and another pupil said that they did not like me because they said I stared at them. This caused me to look away from them and I forced myself to look at the window. After a few months I started to look away from eyes and everyone because I didn’t want them to think I was staring. Throughout my 3rd year I kept closing one eye to avoid seeing the other person and I always got paranoid by thinking people were talking about me looking at them, including in my own home. I also stayed off school whenever I didn’t have enough sleep, this was due to the fact I couldn’t stop thinking about the staring problem. When I went to bed I would think about my brother being on the other side of the room, even with my eyes shut I couldn’t stop thinking about it. By the time I reached 4th year of school I started to come to terms with my thinking and paranoia and whenever I thought people thought I was looking at them. I started to look and open my eyes a bit more and started to look about even though I still had those feelings, since primary school my dad has helped me with my worries and issues but my negative thinking would always over power my positive thinking, because most of the time I never believed my dads advice would work, advice like exercising my brain by reading books, playing instruments and things like that, my dad said it would keep me distracted from my mental issues, because uncontrolled worrying was my main problem.

Which takes me back to the main issue of my blog, politics and how it’s helped me become more confident and out going, I have befriended a bunch of people from the SNP activists group and I also attend branch meetings. Whenever I meet up with the branch I don’t keep to myself as much, people who I know from the branch I go up to greet and talk to them. After the Scottish Parliament elections we had a celebration at our campaign rooms were we had party food and beverages.

I am still learning about politics but I have done things that I never thought I would do, socialising and meeting new people and interacting with local councillors and politicians. Don’t hold yourself back because you think the disabilities you have will get you nowhere in life. Embrace and believe in yourself because if you do that, you will be able to achieve things in life if you stick at it.