Support resources for autistic young people
Returning from my Fellowship in late-November 2019, I was full of ideas for how I could work with the Youth Patrons at Ambitious About Autism to co-produce post-diagnostic support resources. I had worked with the group before and during my trip and it was always the plan to come back and immediately start work together.
"Getting post-diagnostic support right is imperative." - Emily Niner, Fellow
Little did any of us know that our Youth Council meeting in March 2020 would be our last face-to-face meeting. As I mentioned in my previous blog, when the pandemic began we knew that we had to respond quickly and set up support for autistic young people using technology.
When everything else was locking down, we were opening up. Myself and my team moved quickly, setting up online peer support chats based on the work of I-CAN, an organisation I had visited and learnt about in Australia. This new offer meant that we could reach more young people than ever before, and so our small group of young people grew exponentially to become the Ambitious Youth Network.
This network is made up of nearly 400 young autistic people across the country who are interested in meeting their peers, co-producing resources, and campaigning for change. It has now received funding and is being built as a dedicated online platform, to be launched in the autumn.
The pandemic meant that our plans for post-diagnostic peer support in schools were put on the backburner. But it also meant that we could now run online interactive co-production sessions with a bigger number of young people who could take part in a way that worked for them. Some wanted to share their stories publicly and others wanted to be anonymous – but all of them wanted to make a difference to young autistic people like themselves.
Youth Patron Saffron said: “I personally have really benefited from meeting others with autism and finding out about others' personal experiences, because it's helped me to relate and to see the diversity of the spectrum.”
We knew that the right resources make all the difference when it comes to searching for information about your autism diagnosis. We knew there was a wealth of information out there about autism and a huge online autistic community, but different resources speak to different people and wading through negativity and things that don’t relate to you is incredibly time consuming and exhausting.
And so, we are now launching So, You’re Autistic?, a collection of content that discusses diagnosis, autistic identity and everything that surrounds it in an affirmative and relatable way. The Ambitious Youth Network members have created resources for young autistic people like themselves, sharing their stories around diagnosis in video form and writing articles together that they would have wanted to read when they were diagnosed. Creating these resources has been made possible by extra funding that allowed us to pay the young people for their time and effort.
Saffron added: “I hope our videos and blogs will help others understand their diagnosis. I also hope that, if they are angry and upset about not getting the right support, they feel less alone.”
These resources are just the start of our journey to co-produce the support for autistic young people that they need and deserve. Post-diagnostic support is now a key element in Ambitious About Autism’s three-year strategy, and we hope to start developing the peer support in schools programme as soon as possible, as well as an online peer-support course.
Youth Patron Emily says: “I think autistic people will be able to relate to the videos and blogs and that will in turn allow them to feel that they are not alone as somebody else has also gone through this.
Getting post-diagnostic support right is imperative if we want young autistic people to be afforded the same rights and opportunities as their non-autistic peers and have the chance to thrive in the lives they choose.
The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.