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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte

So, Why Autistic Led Peer Support?

The theory of the double empathy problem proposes that when people who experience the world differently interact and communicate, they will struggle to empathise with the other.

Aupeer's logo shows 'Autistic peer'

Research shows that this applies to both autistic and non- autistic people, challenging the deficit based narrative surrounding autistic communication skills. Yes, we can struggle to figure out what non autistic people mean when interacting, but it applies both ways!

Furthermore we are likely to be more open in our interactions with other autistic people, perhaps indicating we just feel more comfortable connecting with people who think, act and feel similar to us.

Check out this nice summary of the theory of double empathy problem here for more detail and insight into recent studies.

Of course, communication, connection and empathy are at the heart of peer support, as is a basic foundational concept of peer support - lived experience. As heard at a recent conference from Randy Lewis founder of the NOGWOG Disability Initiative … ‘APT – Ask The Person!' We know what we need!

The values of peer support, my lived experience of being autistic and of autistic led peer support, strengthened by recent research means Aupeer's peer support services and any projects we embark on are and will be autistic led.

Okay, but is it impactful?

Yes! Okay I am biased, but it does work, I see it in action each week!

Feedback from our 6 month impact survey of our peers was overwhelmingly positive:

I feel comfortable to share my experiences, welcomed and safe. Talking to other adults has really helped me gain the confidence to seek my own Autism diagnosis. Other organisations ask if you have a formal diagnosis before you can join, Aupeer welcomed me without a formal diagnosis and helped me learn more about myself and others. Giving me the confidence to seek a formal diagnosis.

- Group member

You can find out more about our impact and download our Year 1 overview here:

Download PDF • 2.08MB

The National Autistic Society published research findings in 2021 based upon autistic people’s experience of accessing dedicated peer support in Wales:

  • 86% found access to peer support helpful.

  • 61% found out useful information and advice.

  • 46% found they were felt better generally

  • 42% reported increased self-confidence.

AutAngel’s wonderful autistic led Exploring Being Autistic Programme evaluated by Dr Laura Crane in 2020 reported the autistic led peer support programme provided many benefits for participants including:

  • Providing participants with a positive outlook regarding autism.

  • That the sharing of experiences and hearing the stories of peers with similar experiences and their coping strategies provided a sense of empowerment.

  • That the autistic led ethos was the overwhelming positive aspect of the programme.

A recent study “A Group of Fellow Travellers Who Understand”: Interviews With Autistic People About Post-diagnostic Peer Support in Adulthood" explored autistic experiences post diagnosis, identifiying specific ways peer support could benefit autistic people. The study underlined that our approach to peer support is needed:

  • Participants stated a preference for support that focuses on progressing and re-framing during the post-diagnosis phase, rather than being based on facts about autism.

  • One of the benefits of peer support indicated by this study is the relational and emotional benefits of autistic-autistic interaction.

  • While learning about autism was important, participants felt that it would be most helpful to have a chance to contextualise that information, and reflect on how their new diagnosis fit with their past experiences.

If you are hesitant about signing up here is what some of our peer have said:

"Everybody is friendly, nobody judges anybody else, peers are all different & I've personally found it good to talk & listen to others who have the same life struggles."
"Absolutely do it, it’s the best decision you’ll make for your autistic journey! It’s honestly not scary and such a supportive and informative environment."

Come meet your community, sign up for a group or one to one session on our service page.

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