Written by Jade Ruston
Have you ever been in a history class learning about a wise leader of life changing political movements from before your grandparents were born and thought, WOW! I wonder what their energy was like when they were growing up to be this figure? Or, I wish I could have been alive during their time to watch this newness that now shapes my life unfold in front of me.
If you live in Australia 2023, you have the chance to be a witness to and encourage exactly that energy which is only expanding day by day and held by Jacob Lawrence, a courageous 17 year old student from Armidale High School, NSW, who is using his position as school captain to rally up the schools in his area to passionately lessen the segregation gap between disabled or of harder learning student educational support and that of mainstream education. He began by writing his very own book ‘Cracked as a cab’ which is set underwater in the bustling Aussie reef. Inspired by his true life events and calling for inclusivity, Jake’s presence is making storms for the way schools are viewing their learning programmes.
Jake told The Jolly Times, “There might be some kids out there who have great leadership skills but just don’t know how to start showing it yet. I’m literally trying to push my way into that gap and hold it in place.”
2 key components of a great leader is deep life experience and the NEED, (not want) to see other people prosper. Jacob over time has developed a truly deep pride over his ‘super power’ autism, using it as a propeller to motivate rather than a hindrance to remain shy with.
Jake was a tiny six months old when he suffered a stroke that left impairment on the left side of his body and saw him use a wheelchair until the age of six.
He unknowingly used this time to his advantage, getting his nose into books of all sorts. Novels, fantasy, true history, absolutely everything and anything with no preference of content, as long as he could read.
“I think reading is very important because it grows your brain more, makes you more intelligent, it helps you to know more about a lot of things”
With this love, it’s really no surprise, yet utterly remarkable, that Jacob has just published his first but not last book, ‘Cracked as a crab’. Chip the crab, who also has autism, is a close representation of Jacob himself, where the little crab uses a great witty sense of humour to spread joy to others and break the ice with new friends. A method that Jacob has used to excel his own self confidence and thought could be great for others who are struggling to make connections.
Jolly asked Jacob about what message he wanted his readers to pull from his book, to which he replied, “I would like people with autism and disability and special needs to know that they don’t have any limitations. There’s nothing stopping them. We’re proving wrong all the bad people that have said bad stuff about us……. It doesn’t matter. Even if the Kardashians (a fave) or any celebrity was mean to people with special needs or disabled I would be straight onto them right away.”
His mother Zarina sweetly added,
“One thing that Jake was saying whilst he was writing the book is that disabled people don’t just have to be friends with other disabled people. Everyone can be integrated together. Jake said in one speech that everyone has a uniqueness, that’s what makes us…. Us.”
Since the release of cracked as a crab, Jacob has been taking the stage not to promote his book, rather to Inspire communities of children that want to speak up. They see themselves differently. That feels like they don’t fit in. He also talks to the more abled students about acceptance, how to respond to someone with a learning difficulty. He advocates for kindness from all, to all. That fall outs aren’t the end of the world and we should work together to resolve and be friends again. Jake explains,
“When I was a kid I was very awkward, very shy and quiet. Some of my peers would invite me over and I wanted to go with them, but I didn’t feel the need to go out there and do it.”
This is where he advises students,
“Just talk to them, not if there’s an assembly or something don’t talk during that but, if you see someone just tell them to come over and just have a talk something like that and generally just be inclusive.”
When he noticed there was no opportunity for disabled or special needs people to be a leader in the school environment Jake went even further to advise the schools, “It doesn’t matter if someone is in a wheelchair or if they can’t speak fluently yet, there are ways of working around that and everyone should be given the opportunity to take if they want it.”
Jacob stays consistent with his human core by explaining that he isn’t doing all of this for himself or his unit. He’s doing this for all of his hardworking peers and friends, their hard work motivates his hard work, and his hard work motivates a mountain more.
Keep hold of your spirit Jake, the world is excited to watch you make it better.