Caroline Hearst: supporting autistic adults
Caroline Hearst (CF 2017) from Reading in Berkshire is the Director of AutAngel CIC, a community organisation run by autistic people for autistic people. Prior to the pandemic, Caroline devised and delivered a unique education and peer support programme called Exploring Being Autistic, which she successfully moved online during the pandemic. Demand for the programme increased during this time and continues to far exceed supply.
Caroline will use her grant to train more facilitators to deliver the programme, enabling it to reach more people. The programme has proven to provide beneficial support and education for adults diagnosed or self-identifying as autistic, but currently Caroline is the only facilitator. The funding will cover training costs for six more AutAngel staff members to become facilitators and enable them to run at least two online Exploring Being Autistic programmes. Caroline will work with Dr Laura Crane, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at UCL, to evaluate the programme and provide further research to demonstrate its efficacy. Caroline hopes to meet the needs of more unsupported autistic people through the programme, as well as providing increased confidence and paid work for the newly trained facilitators.
Caroline’s Fellowship to Australia, New Zealand and the USA in 2017 explored peer provision and partnership in supporting autistic adults. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.