What do we mean by peer support?

  • People on the spectrum supporting each other
  • “A good peer is a friend but not all friends are peers”
    • Not all autistic people are the same, or may get on (nor should they). They can be peers but may not have the common interests needed to be friends.
    • Peers may not be autistic if have a point of connection

What are the most important things about peer support?

  • Someone saying “I’m seeing the world the same way you do”
  • There is no power imbalance
  • Noone is told what to do, there are just suggestions of things that have worked for others
  • Honesty of communication is possible
  • A facilitator for group sessions – someone to control the dynamics, be consistent, recognise new people in difficulty
  • Knowing it’s ok to ask someone to repeat something, and to say you didn’t take anything in rather than just nodding
  • People are “more gracious with each others idiosyncracies”
    • Not ignoring someone’s stim, recognising it for what it is and accepting it
  • Rebuilding self esteem
  • Focussed interactions are good

Key issues around peer support

  • “Peer support is continually undervalued”
  • Initial sessions can be very emotional (anger, tears, distress) and sometimes draining on new members and old members
  • There can be an expectation of being able to counsel
  • Advocates are taken more seriously when they are being paid to do it
  • Some autistic people with a diagnosis feel pushed out when self-identified autistic people join groups
  • Peer support groups can benefit from having a proper timetable, newsletter, web presence and regular meetings
    • Challenge without admin support
  • Can be a lack of safety mechanisms
    • Not knowing where to refer on to

 

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