A BULAHDELAH Central School student has been shortlisted for a national award.
Daniel Sayhoun has struggled every day of his life with "fitting in" and understanding the world around him.
Diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at the age of two and described by his paediatrician as "the most extreme case seen in his 20 year career", the now 17-year-old has experienced periods of depression but has also demonstrated great determination to work towards his aim of being accepted as a "normal" adolescent.
The year 12 student has now been shortlisted for the Aspect (Autism Spectrum Australia) National Recognition Awards in the category of 'Inspiration Award for Individual Achievement.'
The awards will be held in Sydney on Tuesday, April 8, during World Autism Awareness Month.
One of Daniel's most notable achievements has been his initiative in raising an awareness of autism in his community.
His motivation behind this was to break down the barriers in the school environment for all Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students and also to educate the wider community on this condition.
Daniel has achieved this in many ways.
He has spoken about autism at primary and secondary assemblies to students, staff and parents and created a movie explaining the condition in detail which was presented to individual classes from years three to 12. This movie not only presented facts on autism, but also suggested ways of assisting people diagnosed with this condition.
Daniel speaks with parents wishing to enrol their children with ASD in the school, explaining his experiences and the support networks available, as well as assisting with transitional activities for students starting year seven.
He has spoken with community groups to raise an awareness and also negotiated with the school executive for Autism Awareness Week activities in 2014 including fundraising for autism research, presentations to assemblies and classes, a "blue" out of uniform day supporting the "Light It Up Blue Campaign" and many other activities during the week-long event.
The awards have been judged by a combination of industry experts and individuals with personal experience of autism.
The Aspect National Recognition Awards recognise outstanding support and contributions from parents, volunteers, professionals and individuals to the autism community in 2013.
The "Inspiration Award for Individual Achievement" criteria seeks a person who identifies as having an autism spectrum disorder and has made a significant achievement in their own personal context, in the arts, business, community services or sports.
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is Australia's leading service provider for autism. ASD is a lifelong disability that affects about one in 100 Australians, or 230,000 people. The word "spectrum" reflects the different challenges that people with autism face and the degree to which they might be affected.
The judges are Alexandra Robinson, a member of the Aspect adult social group; Kylie Ouvrier, parent of two boys on the autism spectrum; Dr Anthony Warren, clinical psychologist and autism expert and Adrian Ford, Aspect CEO.