Like many other students on the autism spectrum, 'John' felt isolated and anxious at school. But after experiencing the power of empathy and understanding of the I CAN Mentoring Program, he found his voice and his self-confidence blossomed.
Another student, 'Zac', experienced significant anxiety and he was feeling less and less interested in school.
Through the I CAN Mentoring Program, 'Zac' was able to explore his feelings and share them with like-minded peers and experienced mentors, who offered strategies and coping tools.
'Zac' is now far less anxious and more engaged with his studies and his peers.
I CAN Network
The I CAN Network is Australia’s first social enterprise founded by people with autism. It provides mentoring, advocacy and opportunities for people with autism to help them develop an 'I CAN' attitude and improve their self-confidence.
In schools, students on the autism spectrum can often feel isolated and have low self-esteem. The I CAN Schools program sees mentors with autism paired with students with autism to help them have a positive experience at school.
The program incorporates fortnightly mentoring sessions, motivational talks to the school and parents, along with professional development for staff. The mentoring programs help develop self-acceptance, belonging, optimism and confidence, along with key life skills such as communications and teamwork.
I CAN at Coburg High School
Coburg High School was one of three Government Schools where the I CAN School pilot program was piloted last year, along with Brauer Secondary College in Warrnambool and Ballarat High School.
According to Coburg High School’s I CAN coordinator, David Snaddon, the program has had a big impact.
'This is a powerful program.'
'Pairing children on the spectrum with mentors who truly understand what they are going through is an extremely effective way to help these children feel valued, comfortable and understood.
'Students have become confident public speakers who are on their way to become program mentors themselves in the future, where they were once plagued by extreme communication difficulties and anxiety.
'Overall, the program has inspired parents and the wider school community to have a more positive attitude towards autism and contributed to a culture of understanding and empathy across the school.
'Teachers are also feeling better equipped to create an environment that enables their students who are on the spectrum to shine.'
The Education State
In Victoria the Education State, every child and young person - regardless of background, circumstance or ability or special needs - deserves a great education to fulfill their potential.
To build on the success of the I CAN Schools program, the Victorian Government has committed $35,000 to expand it to government schools in Camperdown and Warrnambool.
This expansion follows the $20 million funding boost the Government delivered last year to support inclusive education for all students with disabilities and special needs.
The Victorian Government’s Inclusive Education Agenda is ensuring that students with disabilities and additional needs are able to learn in a safe, positive and supportive classroom environment in the setting best suited to their needs.
To learn more about the Government’s Inclusive Education Agenda visit: Inclusive Education for All
For more information on the I CAN Network, see: I CAN Network