We came across Daniel's story in February when we read about his acomplishments as a marathon runner. At the time, he was training for Run for the Kids. We thought Daniel would be a fantastic inspiration to young people on the Autism Spectrum due to his determination and ability to put the past behind him and enjoy life despite all odds.
Daniel Cassidy-Fitzpatrick is our newest ambassador for the Access for All Abilities - First Point of Call Service, and we are thrilled to have him on board, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to get active!
We sat down with Daniel to hear his story:
"I started playing sports at a young age, my mum and dad were always proactive with sports at a young age and encouraged myself to get involved".
Daniel tried many sports from a young age; he began swimming at five, and from there, branched out to karate, cricket, football, soccer, tennis, badminton, dodgeball, marathon running, cross country running, table tennis and hockey. Daniel was never one to shy away from a sport, and enjoyed trying out new sports despite his disability.
Despite Daniel being on the Austism Spectrum, he has never let his disability stand in the way of him doing what he does best - being active! "I refuse to let my autism negatively impact my life. I won't let it change who I am. My autism can be a bit of a nuisance at times, especially when people don't understand my condition, but I do my best and I am determined to amount to something. I want to be successful" Daniel says. And successful he will be, with his sporting ambition to "play for the big leagues in any sport while he is young and healthy, and to complete an Iron Man".
Being involved in team sports has meant a lot to Daniel, who told us it helped him to work on his leadership and social skills, as well as forming new friendships. Sports helped Daniel to build his confidence and to believe in himself regardless of what life throws at him. Sports helped Daniel to work with other people, and kept him fit, active and healthy. "Sports helped me work on my social skills, my interaction with other people and it helped me with my fitness and I met many good people playing sport. It even helped me gain employment" states Daniel.
Although Daniel is enjoying his life journey in sport now, it wasn't all track and field glory, facing many barriers because of his autism.
"I talk to much and at times this irritated people and at times the coach. I used to become very self centered and arrogant at times as well as spit the dummy when I did not get my own way" Daniel tells us.
"I became overwhelmed at times and would freak out or just lose my temper, and at a younger age used to storm out on games when things where not explained to me. I would also became upset when I was never taken seriously or always insulted and told I would never improve or no one would take me seriously".
"My biggest problem was I felt no matter how much I try to improve, I always got insulted and put down and would become discouraged or upset. At one point, I even quit the game because I felt what is point in playing if I am not taken seriously or having fun".
Daniel overcame his challenges, and is now part of a team in a range of sports. Daniel would like to encourage other people on the autism spectrum to get out there and try some sports, highlighting the benefits he gained from participating; he shares with us nine key messages to people of all ages and all abilities:
- Do not let anyone tell you that you're not worth it. Everyone had to begin somewhere and success was never built in a day and neither was Rome or Paris.
- Stay true to yourself and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I had many times where I felt the game was boring, life is hard, no one cares (beleive me this is beyond untrue). There are people out there who do care no matter how hard life gets. There is someone out there to pick you up if you fall. If you have one person out there who believes in you, it can make more difference than thousands of people because they will stand by you every step of this life journey.
- Set yourself a goal and don't let anything stop you from reaching it.
- Be kind to yourself and others. I can't express this enough because our happiness is most important (other then family) because if we are not happy, we are not enjoying life or having fun.
- If you find yourself feeling unhappy or sad, try this (as it worked for me): write down a list of things you are not happy with or what is upsetting you. Once you have done that write down ways we can improve, or ways to make it better - one step at a time always works; it's like climbing a mountain, one step at a time.
- You will find a lot of negative people who will say you're crazy, insane (everyone is crazy in their own right when it comes to achieving goals that not many people think is possible). For me, running 42km is insane, but I did it because I felt it was a challenge I presented to myself at the age of 21, and know I could do if I disn't lose focus. Do not let these people stop you reaching for whatever goal you have.
- If you love what you do, DO IT. As long as it makes you happy!!
- Don't take those who are kind to you for granted. If we take them for granted one day they will be gone. Keep them close and enjoy time with them.
- Love life and be happy; we only live once so enjoy the life journey.
Daniel has let his love of sports and being active lead to the development of his own personal training business, 'Dream, Inspire, Achieve'. To find out more, click here.