A buddy mentor uses lived experience to provide informal leadership mentoring for autistics ready to change their lives. Mentoring is done as part of enjoyable leisure activities and social chats rather than in a formal or structured setting.
These leadership qualities include but are not limited to:
1) Developing self-reliance with a resilient and proactive attitude to challenges in life
2) Taking multiple and deeper perspectives of life situations and human behaviours
3) Thinking and communicating clearly to promote mutual understanding and self-advocacy
4) Understand non-autistic people and constructive ways to collaborate with them
5) Developing inner clarity to live a purpose-driven life
The buddy mentor can reach the autistic youth in a way that authority figures (such as caregivers and mental health professionals) are unable to. As a peer, a deeper and more authentic level of trust can develop that allows the buddy mentor to provide emotional support while exerting a positive influence.
Depending on how the mentoring relationship is structured, the service can be arranged as ad-hoc companionship during selected activities or as constant companionship via online messaging. Rather than a formal relationship as a professional authority, the buddy mentor develops an informal relationship as a fallible peer.
Examples of buddy mentoring sessions include accompanying autistics to:
1) Favorite places and activities as a friend
2) Family outings as a photographer
3) Complete chores as a teammate
4) Taking courses/workshops as a helpful classmate
5) Practicing for a speech/competition as a supporter
Buddy mentoring is a long-term investment to cultivate the relationship and to provide the positive influence. Unlike an authority figure who can set the pace, the buddy mentor can only proceed at the pace dictated by the client. Many hours of regular contact will have to occur before the benefits are apparent.
Clients will gradually be more receptive to new perspectives and experiences. Clients will gradually let go of their emotional baggage and experience more inner happiness. Clients will gradually have a better appreciation of what and how the people in their lives are supporting them behind the scenes. Clients will gradually take the initiative and find positive win-win solutions to improve their lives.
While sponsors may choose to be silent about engaging me for this service. I expect the clients to find out on their own eventually. To sidestep this issue, consider engaging me to provide peer coaching – a goal-driven version of buddy mentoring – once the client is ready.
Autistics who qualify for buddy mentoring:
1) do not have any intellectual disability
2) do not have severe behavioural or mental health issues
3) are at least 16 years of age
4) are open to making friends and going out
5) are able to communicate either in English or Mandarin
I am open to working with female autistics in a supervised group setting with at least another non-autistic female adult available.
I caution against online video conferencing sessions. Unless the client enjoys having them, such sessions tend to be more of work and study than play. Online chatting will be much better as a leisure activity.
Rather than explain what buddy mentors are, perhaps it is easier to explain what buddy mentors are not.
A buddy mentor is not a tuition teacher. While there can be learning experiences during buddy mentoring, these should be freely chosen activities enjoyable to the client. Any extrinsic pressure to learn is counterproductive since buddy mentors rely on gentle and enjoyable experiences to build rapport. The aim is not to achieve any learning goals but to develop an attitude of self-reliance and self-determination, which the client can use to advance their own learning goals.
A buddy mentor is not a professional mental health worker and does not claim to have expertise in psychotherapy and counselling. Autistics with mental health issues are advised to seek professional help.
A buddy mentor is not a babysitter. I will remain neutral rather than parrot or enforce caregiver agendas. It is only as a neutral party that I can mediate between the autistics and their family members to come up with win-win solutions.
A buddy mentor is not an expert. Coming from a disadvantaged family, I have limited experience with leisure activities such as playing computer games and visiting tourist attractions. I am open to clients teaching me new skills, which will probably help boost their self-esteem. I only consider myself an expert in the life experience and wisdom of being autistic.