In 2018 I presented a research proposal poster that Prof Liz Milne and I formulated on the back of our earlier launch, at the Glasgow annual conference of Scottish Autism. The 3-day visit was a real eye-opener, as the general atmosphere was conducive, forward-thinking and genuinely participatory, the event seemingly teaming with autistic thinkers. Ensuing discussions with the leadership team around potential for organisational dialogues were, like many initiatives at the time, left behind because of the looming pandemic, and we all had to adjust to completely new ways of working. Whilst I was interviewed by Scottish Autism for an article in their Share newsletter, funding from a local CCG and The RSA became available for emergency Covid response programmes online to counter the impacts of isolation for autistic people, and as we had already started working this way, we were well-placed to deliver these.
Last year I began coaching adults for a new, joint project between Scottish Autism and AT-Autism, called Affinity. This is a fabulous initiative funded by the Scottish government and Barclays, whereby our team of coaches, counsellors and mentors support people in Scotland who are referred mostly via an advice line. I was invited to be on the governance board too and pleased to bring some of my coaching and dialogue experiences and knowledge into the mix. As a freelance coach I have the freedom to bring my own style, which is somewhat rooted in therapeutic modalities and has a seamless overlap with the core work of Dialogica. An equally important strand of my practice is mindfulness meditation and in 2020 Scottish Autism gave me the opportunity to deliver a series of well-being sessions (videos), which led to the new Mindful Autism Support Group, co-facilitated with autistic scholar Kaarina Hollo. Needless to say, this is all thoroughly rewarding work, particularly working directly with people who clearly benefit.
Scottish Autism, true to the spirit of Scotland, are family and community focussed and lead with a participatory approach that supports a wholistic societal outlook. As a private organisation without the heavyweight bureaucracy common to the public sector, they can afford to innovate, with a formula that seamlessly meshes with society, supporting the urgent need for culture-shift from the ground and, I believe, a stress-free culture in the workplace – just what we all need!
Header photo: Jonny Drury (post author) on Portobello Beach, Edinburgh.