Autistic Adults Mentoring Autistic Kids

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ashketchum
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18 Mar 2015, 1:24 pm

(I'm not sure if this is the right section to post this under, but I can't think of where else it would go.)

I found a community sports league for kids on the spectrum, and I was considering volunteering as a coach/aide. However, being on the spectrum myself, I wasn't sure if my participation would be more of a nuisance than a help.

I wanted to do this for several reasons:
- partly because I wanted to understand my younger self better (since I wasn't diagnosed until I was 18)
- partly to figure out ways that I can help my 2 year old nephew (who, I'm 97% positive, is also on the spectrum)
- and partly because I wanted to serve as a mentor to and an example for a younger generation.

The problem is that I'm not sure if the fact that I'm an autistic adult will be less of the motivational message that I'm hoping for and more of a discouragement.

Basically, I don't want to screw up the kids by serving as a crappy example of an adult on the spectrum. Ideally, I want to be the person that I didn't have at that age. But realistically, I don't know if I'm qualified.
I mean, I'm not all bad.. At 21 years old:
- I'm a full-time college student with a double major (and a decent GPA)
- I've been living alone without assistance since I was 17 (more or less)
- I can drive (a car and a motorcycle)
- and I usually pass for (an odd) NT in public
But, I'm also not great:
- I've never had a boyfriend
- I'm a habitual job-hopper
- I only have a handful of friends that I only occasionally talk to
- I have a temper
- I still have meltdowns and shutdowns (though not as frequently)
- I'm quiet in unfamiliar environments
- I have low self-esteem (as you can probably guess)
- I've always been uncoordinated and pretty crappy at sports
- and I dropped out of high school (to go to college, but still..)

So, should I go for it? Or should I spare them from a glimpse into their possibly bleak futures?



elysian1969
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18 Mar 2015, 1:41 pm

I think if kids on the spectrum are going to learn how to work the wiring, what better place to start than to learn from those of us who are finding our way through? The insights that those of us with a little age, time and experience can share might make a difference for kids who are having to muddle through the same crud we did.

Yes, they are going to see we aren't "normal." Yes, they are going to see that most of us are deathly uncoordinated and really, really suck at sports.

But you have a chance to share a little of your own humanity with them, to show them that there IS good life to be had- even if you have an ASD, and even maybe have some fun. I would seriously consider giving it a try. :heart: :skull:


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ashketchum
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18 Mar 2015, 4:17 pm

elysian1969 wrote:
I think if kids on the spectrum are going to learn how to work the wiring, what better place to start than to learn from those of us who are finding our way through? The insights that those of us with a little age, time and experience can share might make a difference for kids who are having to muddle through the same crud we did.

Yes, they are going to see we aren't "normal." Yes, they are going to see that most of us are deathly uncoordinated and really, really suck at sports.

But you have a chance to share a little of your own humanity with them, to show them that there IS good life to be had- even if you have an ASD, and even maybe have some fun. I would seriously consider giving it a try. :heart: :skull:


Thank you. I think your reply really captured my main motivation for wanting to do this. :)



The_Walrus
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18 Mar 2015, 5:03 pm

ashketchum wrote:
(I'm not sure if this is the right section to post this under, but I can't think of where else it would go.)

I found a community sports league for kids on the spectrum, and I was considering volunteering as a coach/aide.
- I've always been uncoordinated and pretty crappy at sports

Depending on the nature of the coaching, isn't that going to be important?

I certainly don't think your ASD stops you from being a valuable mentor.



EyeDash
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18 Mar 2015, 5:13 pm

I think that's a very caring thing to do. And the very things you're concerned might be issues are what would help the kids identify and have hope. I'm 58, autistic and I'm still a total work in progress. I have challenges that I've learned to handle, like long-term professional employment, and ones I still struggle with, like getting out of survival mode and enjoying life. :) I've always identified with people struggling to do their best, and I'm confident the ASD kids interested in mentoring would likewise identify. I have a hard time identifying with people who have their stuff together. I had no mentor or role model beyond my public school teachers and it would have helped me so much as a kid if there had been someone I knew was interested in my well-being. And it's not just any old challenges we're working through: it's the same challenges the autistic kids face and we can share with them how hard it was, so.they don't get overly discouraged and so they can know that persevering works. And we can share tips and what worked and what didn't. I think that is an immensely valuable gift.



ashketchum
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18 Mar 2015, 5:18 pm

The_Walrus wrote:
ashketchum wrote:
(I'm not sure if this is the right section to post this under, but I can't think of where else it would go.)

I found a community sports league for kids on the spectrum, and I was considering volunteering as a coach/aide.
- I've always been uncoordinated and pretty crappy at sports

Depending on the nature of the coaching, isn't that going to be important?

I certainly don't think your ASD stops you from being a valuable mentor.


The coach position is for a non-competitive sports team. The personal aide position will be more like those assigned in school, and will assist a child with any additional behavioral or sensory issues.



f9
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18 Mar 2015, 5:21 pm

Just go for it.



ashketchum
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18 Mar 2015, 5:27 pm

EyeDash wrote:
I think that's a very caring thing to do. And the very things you're concerned might be issues are what would help the kids identify and have hope. I'm 58, autistic and I'm still a total work in progress. I have challenges that I've learned to handle, like long-term professional employment, and ones I still struggle with, like getting out of survival mode and enjoying life. :) I've always identified with people struggling to do their best, and I'm confident the ASD kids interested in mentoring would likewise identify. I have a hard time identifying with people who have their stuff together. I had no mentor or role model beyond my public school teachers and it would have helped me so much as a kid if there had been someone I knew was interested in my well-being. And it's not just any old challenges we're working through: it's the same challenges the autistic kids face and we can share with them how hard it was, so.they don't get overly discouraged and so they can know that persevering works. And we can share tips and what worked and what didn't. I think that is an immensely valuable gift.


Thanks! Like I said, I didn't get diagnosed until I was 18 - later than some, earlier than others. But it made growing up pretty difficult. Not to say it would have been easier if I had been diagnosed earlier, but it probably would have made my family's (and my) acceptance of me a lot easier.

So, I want to help kids by giving them an ASD perspective, instead of the NT one they're constantly forced to compare themselves with. My hope is that it might save them from at least a little bit of the misery and heartache that I had to go through at their age. :)



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18 Mar 2015, 8:25 pm

My advice is to try it. Look at it as a new adventure to explore. You never know what you may find.



ConceptuallyCurious
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19 Mar 2015, 7:12 am

I don't mentor ASD kids, but I am looking to mentor a youth who will probably be NT.

I have in the past volunteered 3 days a week and I loved it and got on really well with the kids, especially the less verbal ones. I found it very easy to follow to routines and copy the correct approaches, whereas some employees seemed to find accommodating their language processing difficulties and sensory difficulties more challenging. I was complemented on my ability to wait and see what should be done, rather than barging in with what I thought would be good and being overly loud and chatty, etc. (Which is good, because I don't have the best initiative taking skills.)

I also work in the holidays with a boy with ASD and ADHD as a 1-1 at a school holidays camp. Although I am a stickler for many routines I'm able to adjust for periods of time and accommodate for potentially unexpected meltdowns. That's one thing I'd say is important - how would you cope if your mentee had a meltdown. Would you be able to divert from your plan and switch to the protocol for meltdowns?



ashketchum
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22 Mar 2015, 4:46 pm

ConceptuallyCurious wrote:
I don't mentor ASD kids, but I am looking to mentor a youth who will probably be NT.

I have in the past volunteered 3 days a week and I loved it and got on really well with the kids, especially the less verbal ones. I found it very easy to follow to routines and copy the correct approaches, whereas some employees seemed to find accommodating their language processing difficulties and sensory difficulties more challenging. I was complemented on my ability to wait and see what should be done, rather than barging in with what I thought would be good and being overly loud and chatty, etc. (Which is good, because I don't have the best initiative taking skills.)

I also work in the holidays with a boy with ASD and ADHD as a 1-1 at a school holidays camp. Although I am a stickler for many routines I'm able to adjust for periods of time and accommodate for potentially unexpected meltdowns. That's one thing I'd say is important - how would you cope if your mentee had a meltdown. Would you be able to divert from your plan and switch to the protocol for meltdowns?


First, I would just like to say: you're an awesome person! :D

As for your question, I'm only a stickler for routines when it comes to the ones I do at home - I have a completely different mentality/personality when I do any kind of work. My biggest problem with someone else's meltdown would be the noise.. But, I'd be more patient with a child (especially if I'm in work-mode), than I would normally be.
Though I don't have much experience to back up this claim, I would most likely not have too much trouble helping someone through a meltdown. However, some sort of protocol would definitely be helpful. :)



EzraS
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23 Mar 2015, 1:40 am

I think it's a great idea. I've had adults in their 20's with asd work with me from time to time and I always feel really understood by them and have been given good advice. There's a difference between someone that's studied autism been trained to work with us, and someone that actually has it and can relate on a personal level.



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23 Mar 2015, 5:49 pm

I recommend doing it.

I'm 25, work with autistic kids. I've talked with other people who are adults (older than me) on the spectrum who work with autistic kids. We work with kids in different ways but there are similarities in the stories that makes both for us and for the kids the fact that there are similarities in disability make a difference.


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