Yes I Can (Original article posted at Link Disability Magazine)
Rethinking Autism from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’, the ‘I CAN Network’ is Australia’s first social enterprise founded by people on the Autism spectrum. The organisation mentor young people with Autism and educate businesses and organisations about the condition.
“Our mentors, who are predominately people on the spectrum, spend time with students who have Autism in schools, universities and TAFEs, providing advice, encouragement and acting as a role model,” says chief enabling officer Chris Varney.
“We bring out their confidence, help build communication and teamwork skills and foster an ‘I Can’ attitude that they can use in other areas of their lives. Parents and teachers are also immersed in the program so they can see and hear the difference in the students and learn new approaches to help them.”
Mentees who display an aptitude for leadership are given the option to train as mentors for younger students. I CAN Network also run camps for young people and a Speakers Agency, and advocate on Autism issues.
Chloe Stuart first encountered the I Can Network in 2014, when she was a mentee at a teen camp.
“I was apprehensive, but at the same time thrilled to meet so many people like me in one place,” she said. Chloe’s positive attitude shined through, and she quickly progressed to becoming a mentor at teen and primary school camps.
“I CAN has helped teach me about self-confidence,” says Chloe. “Through them I’ve done things I never would have thought I’d have the confidence or capability to do.”