From news to TV to movies, ideas about and portrayals of people on the autism spectrum are often not based in reality, ranging from simple inaccuracies to outright fabrications. So, let's review and dispel some common myths.
After a severe case of Tourette Syndrome left Ryan Stevens, 22, of Bracknell, incapable of completing college, his long-term dream of becoming a television presenter seemed unlikely at best. As a result of the syndrome, the depression that Ryan felt was overwhelmingly staggering at times. However, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and refused to let the illness take hold of his life.
As a child, Ryan was always surrounded by animals; he would frequent the countryside with his mother, where his time would be spent observing wildlife. When he wasn’t out exploring, Ryan vividly recalls sitting at his grandmother’s feet, while gazing up in admiration as she regaled him with countless animal stories.
It was his unwavering love for animals that led him to what would become his life’s passion. “I wanted to bring about change in one way or another, and I just knew that helping something else would be what helped me,” he said.
He decided to contact the Bracknell Forest Council, who gave him the authorization to rescue turtles that were being deserted in South Hill Park, by former owners who no longer wanted them. In an act that could be described as nothing short of “turtle power”, Ryan became the sole provider for the turtles, and set up a turtle rescue and rehabilitation center inside his home.
“I loved my turtles, and being able to provide for them, because they needed me, was everything that brought me happiness,” stated Ryan.
He gained recognition, as people around the world began to follow his work online. He also started to receive daily calls and messages, as individuals sought out his advice on turtle care; in similar fashion, they looked to him for help with re-homing their turtles as well.
Even though Ryan’s mental health can prove to be a challenge when trying to complete everyday tasks, taking care of the turtles is what has kept him going. To date, Ryan has re-homed over one hundred turtles to adoring pet lovers across the UK.
“I want people to know that turtles are not toys, that they are real living creatures that need love and care,” he declared.
Ryan hopes to one day expand his business to a larger scale, hosting school visits for children and offering inspiration to others on how to develop a love for animals as he has, proving that mental health is not a barrier of success.
While the syndrome may have dissuaded him from being within the public eye for long periods of time, Ryan was resolute in his pursuit to bring change as well as kindness to the community.
“People have laughed at me and mocked me for my disease, but I never let that stop me. It does not matter that I could not follow my dream of being on television because I have found my place in the community bringing care to these animals,” he expressed.
Ryan’s courage and perseverance to overcome the stigma of mental illness, is an inspiration to all. “Never let your mental health be the reason you don’t follow a dream, because I promise you it is possible,” he concluded.
This piece is based on an article by Adam Theofilatos for Bracknell News, which can be seen here.
Megan Baksh received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University in May of 2016, and is currently pursuing an education in the field of psychology.