When considering peer mentoring for autistic children, it is important to consider whether non autistic peer mentoring is appropriate.
It can send a message of inadequacy, othering, ableism and there being a 'correct' way to socialise, function and to be in the world.
When engaging with many autistic teens and young adults, much of the feedback around peer mentoring from non autistic peers has been an unfortunate experience of feeling more alien, as they realise that social rules actually change according to groups and individual communication and engagement styles (fancy that!).
Peer mentoring, autistic to autistic provides a sense of normal.
Of course not every autistic person is the same, however it is an important foundation for a mentor to at least share a culture, is it not?
Rather than taking an apple and believing it can help an orange turn into an apple if it leads, doesn't it make more sense to allow an apple to provide gentle guidance to another apple?
Having an autistic mentor allows a person to be led by someone who understands them.
It allows a young person to be shown compassion, empathy and to be supported by someone who has lived the internalised expression of autism.
Peer mentoring from non autistic people is limited.
It can only provide what is assumed to be the needs of the autistic youth, based on research, based on behaviour.
There is little to no understanding of the inner life of the autistic person and this is what matters most.
We are not broken or deficient.
Our autistic identity and culture is understood and accepted by other autistic people.
We connect, engage and live in ways that the autistic community just understands without having to research or guess.
We value and embrace the way in which we live and be.
Autistic mentoring helps the young person to really see and understand that they're not alone.
That they're amazing as they are.
This is not to discriminate against the non autistic community, rather to provide an autistic perspective that is acceptance based.
It is an ableist concept to believe, without question that the non autistic person has more to offer the autistic person.
If the situation was reversed and an autistic led organisation was providing mentoring to non autistic children, would it not be considered somewhat misaligned?
Or for an organisation led by white women mentoring indigenous youth?
There is so much value in cultural diversity, but it must respect the cultures that are diverse.
Autism is more than a medical diagnosis.
It is our identity, it is our culture.