We find that many of our student mentees start our Autistic-led mentoring program with a sense of shame toward being Autistic or being different. Often, they have internalised a deficits-based view of themselves.
One of the approaches we’ve used over the years is showing students how to create an “I CAN Profile”: a tool in which they can control the narrative about themselves in a positive way. By the end of a mentoring program, that strengths-based outlook tends to flow quite naturally!
There is no single “I CAN Profile” template. The very best profiles are shaped by the students themselves, when they have applied their unique Autistic thinking to their creations.
The sample below is based on an actual profile from one of our mentees originally created in PowerPoint. We have changed a few details (e.g. use of pseudonym, stock photo) so that it could be shared here with her generous permission. This profile was an important early step in helping this mentee develop valuable self-advocacy skills during her first year of high school (Year 7 – Australia).
Her profile covers areas such as: my strengths, my interests, things that stress me out at school and things that make me more comfortable.
I CAN profiles can be shared with teachers, year & stage coordinators and other key staff. One of our mentees even developed a parallel version specifically for casual (substitute) teachers.
When Autistic young people are surrounded by validating messages and are encouraged to take control of their own narratives, wonderful things can happen!
SAMPLE I CAN PROFILE: “Candace McCan” (Year 7)
My strengths are:
I am REALLY creative
I am very funny once I feel comfortable
I am great with computers and creative writing
I am genuine
My top interests are:
Animals (especially dogs, cats & narwhals)
Gaming (especially Animal Crossing)
Music (80s new wave)
The subjects I enjoy most so far:
Things I am looking forward to in high school:
Meeting other people who like the same things I do
Getting a phone
Things that stress me out at school:
Homework and pop quizzes (MAJOR stress!)
Having my camera on in Zoom
Being called on in class when I am not prepared to answer
Forced participation in competitions, especially sport
Getting lost and losing things
Being paired up with random people in group projects
Things that make me feel more comfortable:
Being able to take breaks to the bathroom when I need them
Being able to take mental health days
Drawing in my notebook
Having very CLEAR written instructions (sent ONLINE) for assignments so I won’t lose them
Teachers who use humour (funny memes, YouTube videos) and are able to laugh at themselves
Quietly asking if I need help with something rather than calling me out in front of the whole class. It’s nice when teachers check that I’m okay.