Savan Gandecha is an autistic YouTuber based in the United Kingdom. In this profile, he shares his experience with autism and dyslexia while also giving us a glimpse of his creativity, advocacy efforts, and perspective on autism awareness.
Tell us about yourself.
I am an Autistic YouTuber who is also a blogger, photographer and freelance video editor. I am a very creative person who enjoys reading a variety of books especially science-fiction and fantasy and playing video games such as Pokémon, Legend of Zelda and Mario Kart. I have also been very fortunate to be surrounded with caring and supporting family and friends.
I started my YouTube journey in June 2011 during my sandwich year placement at University. My first ever video was about being a Student Intern. In January 2014, I decided to create a second channel called “SavanFilms” focusing on experimental short films and things I felt were good enough to share with the world. This became my main channel last year because I decided to focus more on vlogs and the occasional short film from December 2016. I accidentally became a vlogger in September 2016 because I wanted to focus on uploading weekly videos onto my channel. I still try to upload at least once a week and sometimes I manage to upload three times a week!
When were you diagnosed with autism and dyslexia, and what was your experience?
I was diagnosed late (at the age of 24) despite showing the signs of Autism at the age of 2. My full diagnosis is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and if diagnosed much earlier would have been Asperger’s Syndrome due to me being a highly functioning person with a learning condition. I’d rather tell the world that I have Autism because that’s the way I feel about it.
I was diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was 17 and the Autism wasn’t even picked up for quite a long time. My Dyslexia isn’t much of a problem as people understand it much better than the Autism.
How have autism and dyslexia impacted your personal and professional life?
I feel that both my gift and learning condition has had its ups and downs over the years. It has affected me in my personal and professional life a lot. There have been times where it has felt like walking on eggshells for those who have worked with me and have lived with me for most of my life. I try my best to deal with things properly and have many coping strategies to help me cope with life. I am also a quick learner and have used that to my advantage on many occasions. I’d rather focus more on the positive things in my life rather than dwelling on the past and the bad things that happened.
Yes, I do suffer with depression, anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) but still try my best to be in a positive mind-set. I have been calling my Autism a gift because it is one and it doesn’t stop me from achieving things in life.
What led you to create an Autism Vlog series, #AutismWithSav?
I started the #AutismWithSav Vlog series because of deciding to open-up about my gift and learning condition in January 2017. I was encouraged by my two younger brothers, closest friends and YouTube friends to do this after the positive response from the public. I also wanted to be a role model for those who have Autism and to educate and inform those who do not understand.
It wasn’t easy to film at first because it took a lot of energy and effort to research, edit and film the first one of the series. However, I am looking forward to filming more of this series because it’s something I’m passionate about. Thankfully I have vlogs planned till the end of 2017.
What is often misunderstood or misrepresented about your experience as an adult on the spectrum?
I feel that people often think that people with Autism have a certain look. This really annoys me and have mentioned it in my vlogs so far. There is no certain look for someone on the spectrum because everyone is different and unique in their own way. I am a high-functioning adult with a gift which is unique to the world. There is no one like me out there; there might be people who are similar and like-minded but they are not me.
Being a British Asian (Indian origin for those in the USA and across the globe), there are people like me on the spectrum but it is hushed up and not really talked about in our communities. I want no one from those backgrounds to feel lonely because it is and I feel like that sometimes.
What are your hopes for global autism awareness, and what more needs to be done to support individuals on the spectrum?
Things like World Autism Awareness Week really helps those understand more about those on the spectrum. I recently visited a Lush store (British Cosmetics Retail Store) at Liverpool Street Station in London because I have never been to one. The only reason why I avoided such places with a lot of smells because my nose cannot cope and is so sensitive too. It also doesn’t help that I get anxiety attacks too because of the intensity of the smells. I only did the visit to highlight that such places aren’t that great to us but I braved it and it was a lot of fun. This was all recorded in a vlog and I did mention that there should be more global awareness. The staff at the store were so understanding and caring which I wish other places were like this.
Finally, there is a long way still to go to help those on the spectrum but there have been huge strides in recent months to tackle this. For example, seeing an Autistic character on Sesame Street will help young children with autism a lot. I’m also happy to see a video game character from Overwatch (who happens to be Indian and a girl too) to have autism too because I can relate to her when watching other people play the game.