Volunteering is an individual’s willingness or willingness to reach a goal that is considered to be beneficial for the society or individuals outside his / her family or close environment without expecting any financial benefit or other interest. In this case, we can consider being a volunteer in the autism world. The same process is valid for autism too.
Non-governmental organizations which are civil society organizations working on autism spectrum disorder need support in many different areas such as voluntary power, in-kind and cash donation and expert support.
All kinds of support are especially valuable to raise awareness of autism. Individuals can voluntarily support associations and foundations working in this field. At the same time, they can support the promotion and awareness-raising of campaigns and studies in the field of autism. All kinds of support will be an important step for the hopeful future of individuals with autism.
All around the world, there are lots of autism volunteers. Volunteers can be people who have individuals with autism or they can be on the autism spectrum themselves. There are plenty of amazing stories around the world.
“There was a man on the autism spectrum himself and he says that volunteering is a great way to gain experience about other individuals with autism and their challenges. Also, the work that he helps with the smooth running of the organizations.”
“According to a woman working, her favorite part about volunteering is seeing the faces of children with autism after they have put on a fantastic event for them to take part in. Also, she has made so many good friends thanks to volunteering. She thinks that they are just one big happy autism family.”
Why Can Individuals Volunteer?
- They volunteer to share their skills.
- They volunteer to socialize with individuals with autism or individuals related to autism.
- They volunteer to find solutions to a social need as an active participant.
- They volunteer to gain experience on a particular topic which is autism spectrum disorder.
- They volunteer to fulfill their social responsibilities.
- They volunteer to feel good about themselves.
- They volunteer to meet the human resource needs of the autism world.
- They volunteer because it is an alternative to financial support.
- They volunteer to socialize.
- They volunteer for searching for a new environment and social position for individuals with autism.
“Based on one of the volunteer’s experiences, her best moment was when she went with the person she was supporting the stadium. It was a huge change in the daily routine of the person with autism, such as going to another city and visiting a stadium. She became emotional when he started asking questions to the guide. He was really pushing his boundaries and she was very happy and proud of him.”
Volunteering Activities for Individuals with Autism
The fact that associations dealing with autism have a large volunteer base shows that they work in line with their missions, know their field well, can explain the difference they make in this field and have been claimed by others. Members, donors, and volunteers are an important force supporting the organization’s professional employees. Increasing this power means that volunteer work also grows.
A broad and qualified volunteer base means that autism associations can use their human resources without financial expenses, which they may never have. It is an important skill for autism associations to use voluntary power. This skill makes associations truly civil and social. Volunteers can take on a wide range of functions, from accessing in-kind and material resources to supporting management, encouraging participation in society, and spreading the organization’s success and services.
“There is another experience told by a volunteer working in the right to education service. Children with autism are her passion. Especially in education, the issue of treating these children fairly. She thinks she makes a difference not only for the individual parents she helps, but for the system as a whole. If she can help more parents stand up for the right to education, the councils will continue to receive the message that their failures are unacceptable. “
Why Are Volunteers Important in Autism World?
Autism associations need the support of volunteers who are willing to help autism and create awareness by helping autistic individuals. This determination will be the first step of voluntary management.
The support of autism associations from volunteers will be an indicator of their success. Working with volunteers of autism associations will increase the recognition of autism and autism associations, and make their services and activities visible to the public and raise awareness.
Volunteers serve as bridges between individuals with autism and society. Volunteers will make the services of autism associations more effective. The projects carried out by autism associations with limited budgets and with difficulty can be implemented with the support of volunteers. The support provided by the volunteers will motivate the professional team of autism associations.
It is believed that the voluntary participation of experts and highly educated and/or experienced people in the project will positively affect the efficiency, impact, and quality of work of autism associations.
“There is a good story about being an autism volunteer. In this case, a young girl is a volunteer. She claimed that volunteering has enabled her in order to become a positive role model, particularly for younger girls with an autism spectrum disorder. She wants to show them that they can achieve whatever they want to with the right help and support.”
What Is Voluntary Management?
The concept of management here should not be considered within the framework of a hierarchy in a classic employer-employee relationship. Volunteer management is a process that is based on communication and feedback based on the understanding of governance in order to carry out the relationship in the most efficient way for both volunteers, individuals with autism and autism associations.
Efficient volunteer management in autism associations ensures that volunteers work long-term and in the best possible way for both parties. Volunteer management can be transformed into a sustainable volunteering program with the help of strategic planning.
A database should be kept regularly to keep information about volunteers on a regular basis and to ensure sustainable communication. Another important information that the volunteer database will provide to autism associations is the determination of the number of volunteers in the autism associations or the project-specific, determining how many volunteers have worked and how long the volunteer has been won or lost.
Successful voluntary management depends on effective coordination. The fact that there is a volunteer coordinator in autism associations that deals with volunteers are the most important element of healthy volunteer management.
Voluntary Job Description
- Determination of voluntary work name
- Determining the goals and objectives of voluntary work
- Who will benefit from the work of the volunteer, in this case, we can say individuals with autism
- Determining the benefits and changes to be created as a result of the work
- Events to be conducted
- The estimated duration of work and time to complete
- How much time the volunteer is expected to devote,
- Skills needed,
- What are the main responsibilities and attitudes, and behaviors expected from volunteers in the work to be done
- What are the points that the volunteer should pay attention to in relation to the mass that the volunteer serves during the project
- Benefits to the volunteer
“There is a cheerful volunteer who loves to meet new parents, who have children with autism, then she looks at them after six months. She claims that you can see the difference once they realize they are not alone. She says that they are so grateful to be able to come along to family activities where no one judges and stares. According to her, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
What Could Be the Contribution of the Project About Autism to Volunteers?
- To learn the principles of working in non-governmental organizations
- To learn how to approach individuals with autism
- Development of feelings of social responsibility
- To learn leadership skills
- Gain experience in project creation and execution
- To realize their own values
- On the one hand, while educating individuals with autism with whom they will be models with cultural values, on the other hand, they recognize and adopt these cultural values
- Obtain a certificate of participation at the end of the project
What Are the Task Distribution and Job Descriptions of Autism Volunteers?
Autism Volunteer Coordinator: They ensure the coordination of the work and the communication between the project managers and the team captains.
School Team: Autism volunteers working group formed for each university involved in the project.
Team Captain: They ensure that the project is executed, implemented and finalized in accordance with the rules. They do the task distribution and coordination of the training work. They identify the classes, groups, and tasks of the volunteers before the event by name. They communicate with the project managers in case of any problems, issues that are found to be incomplete or need to be changed.
Narrator: Before the training, they give information about the places to go and the work to be done at the universities that day. They inform the volunteers about the places to be trained in the fieldwork.
Trainer: They help them to carry out the planned activities during the study. They motivate and guide volunteers during these activities.
Logistics: They carry the responsibility for the materials related to the work to be done. They are in constant communication with the trainer and the narrator and give them the necessary support. They provide the form, paper-pen, name badge, health materials, etc., which are prepared for the study when it is necessary.
Photographer: They shoot at the workplace to include all volunteers who participate in the event without attracting the attention of individuals with autism. They archive the photographs with location-activity-date coding and deliver them to CD in autism associations.
Rapporteur: They take note of the reactions and feelings and thoughts expressed by individuals with autism during the training. During the activities, they pay attention to the parts where the tempo decreases or rises. In general, if there are remarkable points experienced during the training work, they identify. It reports all issues to the autism associations.
“There is a man who is a volunteer in the education rights of individuals with autism. He told that when he first started as an eager and anxious volunteer for the Education Rights Service, he did not dream he would still be with the service 15 years later – if anything more eager, and definitely far more confident. According to him, it has been an absolute privilege to be part of a team of volunteers who offer support and advice to families with autism, giving them the tools to negotiate with schools and local authorities.”
What Can Volunteers Do for Individuals with Autism?
There is a need for volunteers in offices, schools, and services as well as volunteers who can work from home or in their local community. Opportunities range from helpline supporters and parent advisers all the way to school bus drivers and event cheerers. Volunteers’ work can be categorized. However, volunteers can also provide volunteer support in different fields according to their knowledge, skills, and wishes. Because as the name implies, it is volunteering.
Volunteer Responsible for Communication and Resources
- Monitoring of social media accounts, and reporting of other related institutions in social media
- Introduction of autism in primary schools, high schools, and universities
- Organization of high school and university students by forming clubs or groups on autism spectrum disorder and organizing organizations in schools
- Organizing and taking part in stand activities related to autism
- Supporting organizations and events related to autism
- Studies on donations in kind and in cash
- Conducting studies about autism for funding of scholarship
Volunteer Responsible for Raising Awareness About Autism
- Interviews and presentations to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder in the institutions and schools which are associated with
- Making presentations about mainstreaming education
- Making efforts to spread existing campaigns in their local
Volunteer Responsible for Sports Activities
- Active participation in sports activities to be held intercity and outside the city within the scope of fundraising and communication activities throughout the year
- Taking part in the stands to be opened in the event areas
- Informing people about autism in the event area
- Representation of individuals with autism in jogging training at different points in the city
Volunteer Responsible for Office Works
- To be responsible for the screening and separation of news, articles, videos about autism spectrum disorder published abroad
- Supporting in-office work
- Working on the needs of autism-related projects carried out by foundations and associations
Volunteers who will start to work in autism associations should be trained especially in communicating with individuals with autism, general information about autism, behavioral characteristics and behavior control of individuals with autism. The training should be prepared in accordance with the project in which the volunteer will play a role, and should be enriched depending on the knowledge of the volunteer and the subject that the volunteer will support.
The fact that even another volunteer working in the field of health has the necessary health information will enable him/her to continue his/her voluntary work. In volunteer training, different contents can be repeated at certain times. Of course, the duration of the trainings will vary according to the subject and content.
Volunteer training can provide important benefits such as raising awareness of volunteers, identifying a common language and increasing empathy of volunteers towards individuals with autism. Good planning of the duration and content of the training and choosing the appropriate location are other important criteria. In addition, volunteers can be provided with information notes, books or articles that they can use at any time.
The rules, issues, and methods to be followed by the volunteers in their relations with the media and other third parties that they can contact due to the institution or the project they are in should also be explained to the volunteers within the scope of the training.
In return for volunteer service, volunteers can be rewarded and honored by one-on-one or a group, such as a sincere thank you, a letter from the corporate administration, certificates, badges, personal letters, bread and butter letters, photos, T-shirts, small gifts, meals, parties, excursions, and celebrations. Such activities will help volunteers to come together to become part of the organization and to feel the team spirit.
“There is a woman who is a volunteer at transition and support service at one of the organizations related to autism spectrum disorder. She loves the ongoing training, knowledge, and skills she has developed through volunteering. She says that it is great to hear the feedback from families that they feel the service has helped make a difference and improve things.”
What Does the Individual Gain by Volunteering?
Pleasure and spiritual enrichment: Volunteer acquires pleasure and spiritual wealth in addition to the life experience he/she has acquired as a result of his/her activity.
Development of Self-confidence: There will be a parallel between an individual’s need for self-realization and an environment in which he/she starts to feel useful and increases self-confidence. Working with other volunteer and professional teams within the autism world will increase the self-confidence of individuals in other social projects, especially for individuals who are still students, who have not started their professional life or who have no experience in a social project.
Increase in teamwork skills: Whether or not there is previous work experience, the development of skills such as making a division of labor and achieving cooperation in cooperation can be monitored at the end of volunteering activities. Individuals who assume broader responsibilities within the team will be able to develop leadership qualities in this process.
Social position, a new environment, and friendships: The new environment that individuals acquire through volunteering works undoubtedly contributes to the development of their social lives. This development helps to change and develop the social roles of volunteers. New friendships acquired through volunteering will create a brand new social environment as well as work, school and family life.
New areas of interest: The world of autism’s field of activity or the volunteers’ activity can enable them to step into a field they have never known before, and even provide new job opportunities and areas of expertise.
Stories About Volunteering
“My connection to autism spectrum disorder is started when I received my autism diagnosis when I was 5 years old and I became an ambassador for the National Autistic Society in 2018. My role was working in the Public Relations and Social Media team. During the mornings, I focused my time responding to social media inquiries, scheduling content and helped gather the data in order to feed into the monthly social media report. In the afternoons, I would be organizing the press cuttings, which involves going through articles, saving them into a folder and then writing a short description of the article and where we were mentioned. I learned so much while volunteering from organizing press cuttings, understanding Facebook insights better and using the right tone of language when responding to sensitive inquiries across the charity’s social media channels. I wanted to volunteer because I am keen to learn more about autism spectrum disorder so that I have a better understanding of it. I have a big interest in media-related things, so the Public Relation and Social Media role were right for me. I would definitely recommend volunteering. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity so if you get the chance to volunteer, do it for both yourselves and those with autism.”
“There was a woman who has been a volunteer since April 2015. She has a daughter, her youngest daughter, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. Between January 2017 and March 2018, her oldest daughter is diagnosed with Moderate Language Difficulties. Because of those diagnoses, she has been able to meet new people, find out what is happening within the autistic community and bring communities together thanks to volunteering. She met the Chair of the National Autistic Society and she was able to understand the role. However, she never realized that she would become a volunteer. That has allowed her to raise awareness and connect with all the minorities such as black, Asian, Muslim and etc. Running various sessions and networking with many professionals, she is able to signpost, share information and collaborate with other groups in hosting events with representation from people with autism and their families. Volunteering was a great opportunity for her. She has developed new skills and built on her experience and knowledge on autism from a different perspective. She claims that seeing parents of children/young people with autism and people with autism smile is the most enjoyable moment of volunteering. She has good advice to people who want to volunteer which is that they need to think that they can do everything. Volunteers are able to come together and support each other. Volunteering helps her in her future in a way that she has been able to build on her knowledge, gain understanding in working with people with autism, parents, and professionals, and outreaching to new families seeking for assistance.”
“I was diagnosed aged 18 and I felt the world needed to have a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder. I wanted to be able to make a difference to other autistic people’s lives. As I was not in employment, I wanted to use my time for good and I wanted to build up some skills too. I had just come out of a job that I really struggled with and that job had made me feel like I would never be able to work again. So, I started volunteering in 2016 by making films. I could use my skills to make a difference to myself and the world. I love being able to make a difference whilst working with people who fully understand my condition. They know how to get the best out of me but also where my limits are. I also feel that by volunteering my confidence has grown, I have had lots of new experiences and met some amazing people along the way. I recommend volunteering to someone else definitely. Not only did it change my life but to know that I was doing well for the world in what I was doing with them is such an incredible feeling! Volunteering got me started on my career path and I am sure the skills I have learned will continue to do so. I have built up a variety of skills from professional to personal. Simple things like phone calls, going on trains and generally how to work well with others.”
“I have volunteered for the last 10 months at out of school club. I heard about volunteering at first by finding a volunteering vacancy online. I have previously been volunteering abroad with kids with Down syndrome, and adults with a range of mental issues. I wanted to know more about autism spectrum disorder and do something to contribute to a better life for kids on the autism spectrum, even I do not have any connection with autism. I spend three hours a week in one school club. I mainly play with kids, talk to them, help in activities organized by the project leader, such as cooking, playing games, watching movies, and decorating t-shirts. I really like spending time with kids with autism and learning more about them, it is fun and nice having some time to just forget about everything else and support such a good activity. Volunteering gives me a way to remember who I am, and to help expecting nothing in return. Also, it offers me other ways of seeing the world through the eyes of kids, which I find very valuable. Moreover, I believe that volunteering will help my future.”
“I have Asperger’s syndrome and I have been volunteered for 9 years at the local branch. My motivation for volunteering in being on the spectrum myself with Asperger’s syndrome and wanting to help and support my fellow peers in my region. My most enjoyable moment volunteering is being able to take part in cycle events and raise over £1,000 for the charity. Two years in a row in World Autism Awareness Week, I have appeared in my local high street in my Pink Panther costume to collect donations and raise awareness of autism spectrum disorder. I have appeared in local newspapers regularly to promote fundraising events. After that, I had people who had heard the interview approach me on the day to donate. Volunteering has made a difference in my life in a way that I feel more confident in myself and able to be more open with talking to members of the public. I definitely recommend volunteering. Volunteering will continue to help me to talk with people about my condition, which is autism and Asperger, and help other people to understand autism and make the place a safer place to be for people like me. I hope also in the future I will be able to increase my confidence further to do more talks to groups around the county and get more support from other areas.”
“I have been a member since my son was diagnosed in 2008. I accessed many support groups for information, advice, and support. I have been a branch officer since September 2018, before that I was a parent volunteer. My motivation is my son. He was let down so badly with services, I do not want another parent to feel like I did. I feel activities are the best way forward in helping the youngsters with autism feel less isolated and able to access everything that their peers do in a friendlier environment. My saying has always been a happy child, happy parent. With volunteering, I can make a difference to a young person’s life and their family by providing activities and support groups with the support. There have been so many enjoyable moments, but if I had to pick one, it would be taking a young child with autism from a reclusive, isolative place and making them smile. This has happened so many times it makes me continue to do what I do. There is nothing like a child’s smile to warm your heart and make life worth living. Volunteering is the biggest part of my social life, I enjoy every moment. Just to see the youngsters happy is enough for me. I have learned additional skills too from my role. Patience, understanding and a smile can mean the whole world to someone who is feeling frustrated, lonely, angry, isolated, lost, and confused. A cup of tea and a chat is so much more than that when you are working with families with a youngster with an autism spectrum disorder.”