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“I think we all need people in our lives who share our identities”: The Power of Autistic Mentorship

Photo courtesy Anne Borden [image: Two white people: A boy with medium-short dark blond hair, and a woman with short dark brown hair, posing for the camera. They are sitting on a wooden bench next to a large bush.] Anne Borden and Raya Shields live in Toronto, where Raya is an autistic mentor to Anne’s son Baxter. Both Anne and Raya are members of Autistics for Autistics (A4A), an autistic self-advocacy organization. In this conversation, they discuss autistic mentorship: what it is, why it’s important, and how we can forge new approaches to autism through autistic-led and directed projects. —- Anne: Raya, how would you describe what you do? Is it autistic mentorship, or what term would you use? Raya: I refer to myself as a mentor and to the work that I do with children and young people as mentorship. I also have my Bachelor of Arts in Child…

Should Parents Tell Employers About Their Child’s Special Needs?

Anonymous Kids with special needs have, well, special needs. These needs not only present my kid with a lot of challenges; sometimes they mean I need to take unscheduled time off work. (It’s just how it is.) Aside from the time I need for standard IEPs, evaluations, school visits, and the like, my kid has also spent a fair amount of time in the hospital. My kid isn’t the type you leave and say, “be nice to the nurses.” You just don’t do that to a minimally verbal kid with intellectual disability. When my kid is in the hospital a parent has to be there. Which means no work during that time. When my kid was in the hospital, keeping my manager in the loop was not my main priority. I thought leaving a message on his voicemail, such as, “I’m in an ambulance with my son. It’s two AM…