London Ont.’s River Christie-White didn’t speak until he was 8 years old. Now, he says, he can’t stop talking.
The 17-year old from Oneida Nation of the Thames is on the autism spectrum and remembers what it was like before he found his words.
“I have a memory of before I started speaking and it was very frustrating because I couldn’t communicate properly with other people,” Christie-White told London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen.
But things have changed. Christie-White took up hoop dancing, a traditional Indigenous dance, and now uses it to spread a message of inclusivity and awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
It’s that work that caught the attention of London’s Atlohsa Family Healing Services. The organization is recognizing Christie-White with one of eight annual peace awards, honouring those who have made a significant social, cultural or educational contribution in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.
Christie-White is the recipient of the Rising Star award.
“I was bullied when I was younger and I decided to take that and use it for something better,” said Christie-White who is now an award-winning dancer who works with 17 different hoops to depict various scenes and animals. “I use them along with songs and I create a story by putting them in different formations and creating a story.”
Christie-White wants to help people with disabilities find the services they need. He also wants to break old beliefs. “I feel like people need to move past the stereotypes of people with disabilities being below.”
“There is a very big misnomer when it comes to the disorder itself that people with autism have a lack of understanding or don’t have proper knowledge or are influenced by other people,” said Christie-White.
“I know people who have disabilities who are doing a lot of good.”