Local Akira Ingles has said growing up with autism has proven to be difficult at times and he hopes more awareness can be brought to the developmental disorder and community attitudes can change.
Akira was diagnosed with autism at around 10 years old and said there is still a stigma surrounding the disorder.
"There are people who don't understand autism and what it means for people who have been diagnosed," Akira said.
"I think there needs to be more awareness and understanding."
Akira moved to the Macleay with his family from Canberra when he was three and grew up in Stuarts Point and Kempsey.
"At school I did experience discrimination and it was something I had to deal with from a young age," he said.
At 15, while still attending high school, Akira started work experience at Macleay Options in South Kempsey and at 16 was employed by the organisation.
"I worked there for five years in the macadamia factory and in the woodwork section," he said.
After Akira left Macleay Options a few years ago, the 24-year-old started collecting bottles and cans when Return and Earn established a return point in Kempsey.
Helping the environment, cleaning the streets and keeping fit are some of the positives of collecting bottles and cans and recycling them at Kempsey's Return and Earn Akira said.
"My dad said I should start collecting them because it would help me and it did."
Collecting the recyclable cans and bottles also helps Akira maintain a regimented routine and promotes positive mental health.
"It has helped me meet new people, lose weight and it also helps the environment. I enjoy doing it, it keeps me sane."
Although Akira enjoys his hobby of collecting cans and bottles, he has support workers through Macleay Options and is actively looking for work.
"I am looking for work and have submitted some applications. I would like to work in retail, but for now bottle collection is what I'm doing.
"I never wake up in a mood where I don't want to do it," he said.
Akira is also involved in work being conducted by About You Psychology in Kempsey. Provisional Psychologist Luke Simmons said they studying ways to improve the lives of people living with a disability.
"We listen to the participants, like Akira, who have experienced the stigma surrounding disabilities and mental health issues to learn the importance of social inclusion and to improve their quality of life in the community," he said.
"By listening to their personal experience we find out what is important to each individual and can tailor our services to their needs."