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Esther defies odds for opera success
WAAPA opera student Esther Counsel. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

A decade after a school guidance counsellor told Esther Counsel that because she was autistic she would struggle to finish Year 12 and was highly unlikely to complete a university degree, she has proved that advice spectacularly wrong.

Ms Counsel, 24, is preparing for her classical voice graduation recital at the WA Academy of Performing Arts in November.

She also has a principal role in WAAPA's production of the opera Little Women next month.

The classical performance student was diagnosed at 13 with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism which affects a person's ability to pick up social cues.

"It was difficult during primary school and my early high school years because back then it was still relatively unknown," Ms Counsel said. "I think I've improved a little, but I still don't understand all the complexities of social interaction."

Seeing the musical Phantom of the Opera as a child affected her so much that she started singing lessons when she was 10.

At 15, she was told she would have great difficulty with Year 12 university entrance courses because of her lack of organisational skills.

"It was very disheartening because going to university was something I'd always wanted to do," Ms Counsel said. "It forced me to believe in myself that little bit more and say, 'No, this is my dream, this is something I want to and can achieve'."

Not only did she finish high school, but she was dux of music and auditioned successfully for WAAPA.