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Why are peer mentors such a valuable part of Chill Online?

four young adults sitting on couch talking

Why are peer mentors such a valuable part of Chill Online?

One of the aspects that makes the Chill Online program so successful is that Chillies (participants) are supported by peer mentors, many of whom are on the spectrum and have participated in the Chill program themselves.

So, what is a peer mentor?
A peer mentor is a similar-aged person (peer) who can provide support, guidance and role modelling to an individual. Peer-mediated interventions are well documented as an evidence-based practice for young people on the autism spectrum. Moving away from the standard carer model in disability, peer mentors provide the social and cultural relevance needed to provide valid social and communication support.

Chill peer mentors understand that every young person on the autism spectrum is different and has unique needs and they strive to grow alongside the Chillies, as fellow travellers and as equals on the Chill journey.

This month we’d like to introduce you to some of the wonderful peer mentors that work at Chill… let’s get to know them a little better.

Meet Bella…

What made you want to become a Chill mentor?
I wanted to be a part of a community of people that contributes and strives to helping provide a space to those who are normally socially isolated by society for being different. I wanted to help them feel a part of a tribe that loves them for all their beautiful neurodiversity.

What is the best part of being a mentor?
I think the mutual respect, fun and deep connections that each day offers in the Chill program from the fellow mentors, office staff and of course the Chillies!

What do you wish more people understood about autism?
I think a lot of people don’t always accept what they don’t understand. In my experience a lot of people aren’t even aware or educated on autism unless they know someone who is on the spectrum, which I find odd because of how neurodiverse our country is. I guess people don’t talk about it as much. I think if more people knew more about it, we could communicate better with people that have autism. For example, providing for those people that need a bit more time, silence and space to process information. I think people on the spectrum just need a little more compassion from those who may not quite know what it is like.

two young autistic adults sitting togetherMeet Tom…

How have you seen the Chillies change over the course of the program?
I’ve seen a lot of dramatic changes among the Chillies over my time here, especially the Chillies that I have been with in Chill Foundation. Their social skills often improve hugely and it is awesome seeing their uniqueness come out.

What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a mentor?
In one of my first foundation programs one of the Chillies started out super anxious and was almost too nervous to even talk in front of the group, and over the term slowly started becoming more confident and showed that she had one of the loveliest, sweetest personalities. One day she mentioned that she did art to the group and everyone immediately supported her and when she brought it in the next week, she realised that everyone was super supportive and encouraging, which I think was surprising to her. This was a great example of fanning someone’s flames to help them grow.

What do you wish more people understood about autism?
I think some people think that because someone has autism, they can’t be fun to hang out with or good to talk to. Yes, people with autism struggle with some aspects of this but are super lovely people who have their own unique personalities, and interests and often are a pleasure to be around.

Meet Clara…

How have you seen the Chillies change over the course of the program?
I have seen Chillies change from being extremely insecure and shy to being truly themselves and having fun together. I have seen vast improvements in Chillies communication styles which showed through non-verbal communication (e.g., facial expression, tone of voice) and verbal communication (e.g., asking questions, story-telling) and many other changes.

What’s the best part of being a mentor?
To be able to work with people that are truly authentic and very accepting of others’ differences. But also, to see them grow more confident and find their place in the social world.

What made you want to become a Chill mentor?
I am interested in people and what makes them the way they are. I always wanted to work with a diverse range of individuals.

Meet Andrew…

What made you want to become a Chill mentor?
Going through the program and being offered a job was amazing. I noticed a tremendous difference in myself and others, and helping others come out of their shells is very rewarding.

How have you seen the Chillies change over the course of the program?
I’ve noticed many chillies gain confidence, and being given the tools to be able to articulate what they want to say. Beyond that I’ve noticed friendships forming, and I would guess that many didn’t have many friends before the program, and now many have friends from all the various programs that they do.

What do you wish more people understood about autism?
Everyone who has autism is a unique person, who deserves to be treated as such. They may need some additional support and when given that are capable of amazing things. They also can think alongside different pathways than neurotypical people, which can lead to occasional misunderstandings or different solutions to problems that are very out of the box, that work better than current solutions.

 

Chill Online is being launched as a one-year pilot and is open to young autistic adults 18 years plus across Australia. The program is subsidised through the NDIS and the fee is claimable for participants.  Enrolments are now being accepted for Term One, which commences in early October 2021.

Enrolments for Term one are now closed. We will be opening enrolments for term two in November 2021. 

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