Chris Varney is Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network. I CAN Network is driving a rethink of autism so that young Australians on the spectrum think ‘I CAN’, not ‘I can’t’, in response to their challenges and opportunities. Chris was inspired to start I CAN from the exemplary support his family and friends provided in helping him channel his Asperger’s. Chris has a strong background in advocating for children’s rights. With World Vision Chris has held roles including Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. With the Australian Government, Chris served as the 2009 Australian Youth Ambassador to the UN. For his advocacy Chris has received awards including the 2011 Monash University Student Alumni Award, the 2012 National Award for Youth in Advancing the Legal Rights and Interests of Children and Young People, 2012 Future Justice Medal and 2014 Monash Vice-Chancellor Social Inclusion Award.
Lisa Anderson is a mum of four, which includes I CAN Founder Chris Varney and Board Member Marian Varney. Lisa talks about being consistent with boundaries and direction as a parent. She has given her career to nursing whether in hospitals, aged care facilities, schools or to teaching aged care in TAFEs. When Lisa realised Chris’ differences she made a pact she would always support him. When Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Lisa used her closest friends, in-laws and parents to build an ‘I CAN Network’ around Chris which helped her family’s experience of autism be as positive and enriching as possible. She outright rejected the deficit language in Chris’ diagnostic report. Lisa’s humanity with her journey as an autism parent, including her good days and hard days, will make you laugh and make you cry.