Shellharbour man's days of being bullied are over

Cameron Ryan is the first client ambassador from the Illawarra chosen to represent disability service provider Northcott.
Cameron Ryan is the first client ambassador from the Illawarra chosen to represent disability service provider Northcott.

Having Asperger's caused Shellharbour's Cameron Ryan to be relentlessly bullied at school but a new role will help him protect other young students with a disability.

The 20-year-old is the first client ambassador from the Illawarra to represent disability service provider Northcott.

He said he felt "proud" to be put in the role which will see him talk to school students and other young people with a disability about the issues affecting them.

"As an ambassador for Northcott I will be able to raise disability awareness in the region," he said.

"I'll be talking to school students and prospective clients of Northcott and will assist in their community events and with fund-raising."

Bullied constantly in primary and high school, Mr Ryan said he felt "worthless" and "alone".

"Having Asperger's means I take a bit of time to do things and I don't have as many social cues," he said.

"I was always bullied because I was considered different - I was in different classes and didn't get a lot of social interaction with the other kids.

"In high school I tried to sit with a group of people who I thought were nice but they pushed me onto the ground and then made me sit there every day.

"It didn't feel nice."

After finishing high school Mr Ryan took part in Northcott's disability training program, which has helped him build new skills, friendships and self-esteem. He completed a TAFE course and now works part-time at a local supermarket.

"Since I started Northcott's Transition to Work program I have become a different person," he said. "I have not experienced bullying, I have made new friends and have got a job."

Asperger syndrome is a disability on the autism spectrum that affects around one in 250 Australians.

Northcott CEO Kerry Stubbs said Mr Ryan's transformation highlights how non-profit organisations like Northcott are helping people with disabilities reach their full potential.

"Each year Northcott chooses three clients from across NSW and the ACT to represent our organisation and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities," she said.

"Cameron is the first client ambassador we have chosen from the Illawarra and he will spend the next year helping to raise disability awareness by sharing his experience of disability to dispel common myths the community has about disability."

One of Mr Ryan's first official duties as ambassador will be to take part in Northcott's inaugural Walk With Me Illawarra event on September 10 at Wollongong's Lang Park.