‘Befriending gives you the feelgood factor’

Luc, Carina and dog Kia

What is Befriending?

Befriending involves volunteers from the local community being trained and supported to provide flexible and quality support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Conditions.

After relevant training, Befrienders are matched with an individual affected by an Autism Spectrum condition: this may be the person themselves, a sibling or another family member. Between them, the individuals decide how often the sessions will take place and what kind of things they will do together. Befrienders can take part in a huge range of activities; this may be sharing an existing hobby or interest with someone or offering time to try something new. It could involve taking a younger child to the park, play area or museum. Or perhaps joining a family on a day out at the beach to provide an extra pair of hands. Befrienders could go with an older child or adult to the cinema or for something to eat. The list really is endless!

Who can be a Befriender?

Volunteers do not need to be “experts” in autism. We’re looking for men and women who are approachable, reliable, willing to learn and sensitive to the needs of others. We provide initial and ongoing training and support. Volunteers from the age of 16 years old are accepted for training. You need to be able to offer a one-year commitment to the scheme.

Befriending is flexible. Visits are arranged according to how much time the volunteer can give up. There is no minimum amount of time required, however we do ask for commitment in order to build a trusting relationship.

The following is a wonderful example of a Befriending relationship that has been built through our service…

Luc (13) first had a befriender when he was eight or nine, around the time that he got a diagnosis of autism and ADHD

Carina Santos signed up to be a befriender when she was applying to go to university. She had heard a staff member from Autism Jersey say how good it would look on the CV.

‘I fell in love with it, and here I am… eight years later, still befriending.’

Now working in finance, Carina was matched with Luc a year ago.

 ‘Befriending gives you the feel-good factor. I walk away knowing that Luc has had a good time and that his parents have had a break.’

Carina spends time with Luc on a Sunday morning, something which both she and his parents, Paul and Angelique, keep flexible depending on their own commitments.

‘Befriending means that Luc gets to have some fun. We sometimes go to the cinema or we go bowling.

‘The point is it’s a friendship, and we are doing stuff that Luc enjoys. It’s a nice break for him as well as his parents, even if it just means they can have breakfast or go for a walk together.’

‘It’s really good when we go out on our trips, we do all kinds of stuff and we get to have fun’ Luc

‘What people don’t understand is how exhausting it can be having a child with autism. Autism doesn’t go away. Sometimes it’s so cruel, when you see their struggles. If you saw Luc walking down the street, you’d have no idea’ – Mum Angelique

Befriending is such a valuable part of our services here at Autism Jersey. If you would like further information on this scheme or would like to discuss how to become involved, please contact our Family Support Team on: Tel (01534)871888 or email familysupport@autismjersey.org  

Thank you for your interest in volunteering for Autism Jersey.