Program Overworld AMP (Assisted Autistic mentorship Program)
Being autistic in a neurotypical world can be painful.
This was brought home to me when my son Luke (Ambassador of T.A.P.P) tearfully recounted the social challenges he encountered within mainstream school settings:
“No one understands me. Not even you, because your brain works differently than mine.”
This soul-searing comment was the catalyst for creating Overworld.
An Unmet Need
“At that crystallizing moment, I realized that Luke and his autistic peers rarely, if ever, had contact with adults who process the world as they do. The guidance they received came exclusively from a ‘neurotypical’ direction; working to help them navigate a culture and society that has little or no understanding or accommodation of executive function challenges or differences in social communication and understanding, cognition and learning and sensory processing. How hard that would be, I thought, to go through life without knowing role models who are like you, who understand how you think and can advocate for you. And why are the experiences, strengths and unique perspectives of authentically autistic adults so undervalued and untapped in our society?”
These realities can manifest in high rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation among the autistic population. For youth, these issues can be especially acute. To succeed and thrive, autistic young people urgently need opportunities to build positive self-identities and paths toward independence.
An Innovative Solution
The Autism Mentorship Program (AMP), a trail-blazing program, meets this need by pairing autistic youth and adults in meaningful, one-to-one, enrichment-based mentoring relationships. Designed by autistic adults for autistic young people, AMP offers a resource many of the mentors say was missing from their own lives — support for the present and hope for the future.
- To offer the autistic population a sense of identity and belonging, an opportunity to foster connections with caring autistic adults who can help them recognize that they are not “less than” their neurotypical peers, nor are they alone; others have overcome similar challenges and achieved success and they can, too.
- To invite autistic adults to serve as role models and leaders in their community, where they will be highly valued specifically for the insights their autism brings, and play an active role in improving life for the next generation of autistic youth.
- To support the parents/guardians of autistic young people, who may have difficulty picturing positive futures for their children, by connecting them with autistic adults who can offer hope and guidance.
Creating the Program
AMP’s upcoming launch is the result of over eight years of work and practical research. They are:
- Autistic adults — Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase from self-advocates: “Nothing about us without us.” Autistic adults are the experts on living with autism. Only they can provide the kind of insight and understanding of autistic needs. Historically, they haven’t always been at the table when it comes to designing programmes and policies for their community, but they are central to the creation of AMP.
The team has been conscious about designing, testing, and documenting this innovative programme so it can be replicated and sustained anywhere.
Significance and Support
As a society, we are only beginning to value neurodiverse points of view, to recognize the creativity, intellect, and problem-solving skills autistic individuals bring to their communities. Ultimately, we hope the AMP initiative will improve the immediate lives of its mentor/mentee pairs and play a key role in moving our society from awareness to total inclusivity of the perspectives and strengths of neurodiverse people everywhere.