Stories - November 8, 2023
Neurodivergent animator breaking barriers
Cody from Bendigo is not letting his disability stand in the way of his success.
In fact, he is using it to his advantage.
Through dedication and hard work, and with the support of Intereach – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) partner in the community, the 25-year-old says he is on the way to achieving his goals.
The neurodivergent animator has already received worldwide recognition for a short film he created.
Earlier this year, Cody travelled to New York to receive an honourable mention for his animation ‘Child of Temoin’ at the Marvels of Media Awards – the first media awards ceremony, festival and exhibition to celebrate media-makers on the autism spectrum.
It’s been an outstanding achievement for me. I still can’t believe I’ve won such an award.
“Child of Temoin is about a mother and daughter (spirit) trying to defend their home planet (Temoin) from humans and I wanted to explore themes such as generational trauma, xenophobia and innocence.
“Filmmaking has to me always been about giving spotlight to the underdogs in the world. It gives me a reason to get up every day and tell stories about yourself and our lives.”
Diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, Cody attended specialist schools and TAFE in Melbourne before moving to Bendigo a couple of years ago.
“When I moved to Bendigo, I looked into services that would benefit me as a person with autism,” he said.
“Finding a job is challenging when you are autistic as people have high expectations of you and want you to act a certain way.
“My disability means I have trouble socialising with others. People tend to judge you for the way you communicate or act, which has been incredibly difficult. I would try to mask myself so I appear normal which is especially draining.”
Cody was linked in with Intereach and local area coordinator Sharyn Laugher, who crafted a comprehensive NDIS plan that included capacity building employment supports.
“Intereach helped me with my plan which has pretty much changed my life,” Cody said.
He was referred to Connecting Futures, which provides NDIS employment supports to young adults with disability.
Connecting Futures identified supports that would benefit Cody while also building his employment capacity. An occupational therapist worked with Cody to incorporate strategies he had already learnt.
Sharyn said it was clear Cody would need soft employment skills.
“Before receiving NDIS supports to help build his skills and capacity for employment, Cody was at risk of becoming socially isolated, so Cody has been connected to the local Bendigo council where he connects to youth in the community,” Sharyn said.
“Connecting Futures has supported Cody in connecting to L to Ps program, and he has now successfully obtained his learner’s permit.”
Sharyn and Connecting Futures also helped Cody to set goals, which was important in setting some clear structure.
“Cody loved anime so self-employment was explored but he also needed to understand what work looks like,” Sharyn said.
“Connecting Futures organised work experience with a local supermarket for Cody, but he realised this was not the best fit for him.
“He expressed interest in barista work, and a placement is now being arranged with a local hotel where he can learn barista skills and gain valuable work experience in this field.”
Cody is also working as a kitchen hand at a Chinese restaurant.
“Cody has learnt that going for interviews doesn’t mean you will get a job, but persistence, building confidence and learning new skills will get you closer to your employment goal,” Sharyn said.
Cody’s real passions are animation, music production and illustration, which he hopes to turn into a career one day.
And if past achievements are anything to go by, Cody is well on his way.
Child of Temoin also won best animation film at the Cannes Shorts awards in December 2022 and was a semi-finalist at the 2023 Australian Animation Film Festival (AniMate).
However, Cody is most proud of his Marvels of Media award.
“This award has helped me find more creative people such as myself and people seem to take me a bit more seriously now,” Cody said.
In his acceptance speech, Cody said the project had been a labour of love over the previous 12 months.
“During the pandemic, I taught myself many skills such as sewing and music production and it has given me inspiration to make a film with these interests,” he said.
Cody said media representation of autistic and neurodivergent people had been improving but there was a long way to go.
“I would love to see more autistic actors, writers and artists working on shows and films,” he said.
I suppose this award is proof that things have been improving and I’m incredibly honoured to be part of that history.”