Your Autism Mentor – The First Twelve Weeks ….
Twelve weeks ago, with much excitement and a touch of trepidation, I launched Your Autism Mentor. With the help of fellow professionals, friends and social media contacts, word of my mentoring practice quickly spread, and I could not have imagined the overwhelmingly positive response I was to receive, nor how, over this relatively short time, so much would take place. Requests for initial consultations from parents desperate for this nurturing support for their young people, who, in many cases, had faced years of unmet need, arrived in my inbox. Liked-minded professionals contacted me with offers of support to enable me to move forwards in developing my mentoring practice. How incredibly fortunate I now feel for my dream to be becoming a reality.
My first blog has taken me a while to compose as there is so much I would like to share with you that I don’t know where to start!
I could share with you the reasons behind how and why I became a mentor for autistic young people. How my interest and knowledge grew over 15 years working in mainstream schools and for local authorities and how I recognised the barriers which hinder these young people from reaching their own potentials and personal well-being. I could tell you how my experience has taught me that the world is a richer place when autistic values, strengths and perspectives are embraced.
I could explain to you how my academic study and on-going training further informed my work practice and gives me the confidence to believe I can make a difference to autistic young people. How learning from leading autism authorities, including the inspirational Luke Beardon, Damian Milton and Peter Vermeulen, have added value to my own philosophy.
“they treat all us autistic kids the same”
I could seek your empathy regarding how autism is still widely misunderstood by society and how frustrating this can be for the young people I work with; how statements such as “they treat all us autistic kids the same” and “I feel like a giraffe in a herd of elephants” are regularly shared with me. How, in fact, it is society’s lack of understanding, attitude and tokenistic gestures towards participation and inclusion which ‘disable’ autistic individuals. I could tell you how I support the social model of disability whereby autism is recognised as a difference within the neurodiversity paradigm and how, in a world which can be described as ‘alien’ to many autistic people, forming a positive sense of identity is at the heart.
“I feel like a giraffe in a herd of elephants”
I could write a whole article on how I support the use of identity first language, as preferred by the autistic community: how I choose to use “autistic person” recognising autism as an intrinsic part of that young person’s identity and not “person with autism” which can infer that autism can be removed from the individual.
I could fascinate you with the history of autism and how its changing nature over the last 80 years suggests there is so much we still have to learn about autism and neurodiversity.
I could describe the negative impact the global pandemic has had on many autistic young people: how the unpredictability of our world and unknown outcomes led to further inequalities, social exclusion, and increased anxiety. How, whilst home learning was preferable for numerous autistic young people, the return to school has been overwhelming and unsustainable for many.
participation, inclusion, belonging
Most of all, I want to share with you how I am now working with many wonderful autistic young people and their families, and feel I am making a difference through mentoring. How I am helping these young people to explore their own identities, discover their individual strengths and needs and realise their future pathways. How mentoring provides a safe space to build a trusted relationship with someone who listens, is kind, understanding and patient, helping them to feel a sense of participation, inclusion and belonging. How, I am now supporting young people to recognise and take small steps towards their own goals, increase their sense of well-being, realise their individual value and make contributions to the world. How, over twelve weeks, I have seen many young people and their families take early steps in moving forwards with their lives and am proud to be a small part of their journey.
It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where all young people were able to develop within an inclusive society where they felt valued, a sense of self-worth and fully included irrespective of their individual profiles of strengths, needs and differences. I am one small drop in an ocean of need, but my drive is for all autistic young people to feel positive about themselves and be able to develop in a way which is right for them.
“please listen, be kind, be patient”
Please note all opinions made within this blog and on my website, are my own. These have been informed through my practical work experience, study and reflection.