Tier 2: Early Intervention and Cohort Specific Support
The I CAN School® Mentoring Program aims to improve the self-esteem and mental wellbeing of autistic and neurodivergent students aged 8-18 years in school. The program also focuses on students' parents and school staff.
Mentoring sessions cover various topics which benefit autistic students including teamwork, positive identity, communication skills and stress management. The mentoring programs build social connections among autistic students and improve their self-confidence, self-acceptance, optimism, and communication and public speaking skills, to lead to improved mental wellbeing.
The last session of the mentoring program is a celebration, where mentees plan and run an event that celebrates the strengths of Autism in front of their parents and school staff. There is also the opportunity for mentees to participate in the AWETISM Expo to show their strengths and special interests to the public.
Schools can also purchase add-ons such as a 1-hour information session for parents and a 1-hour workshop for school staff, to build their understanding of the strengths of Autism.
I CAN group mentoring sessions are $417 each (GST free) for up to 16 students. Most schools purchase 8 x sessions ($3,336) or 10 x mentoring sessions ($4,170).
Target population: Autistic students aged 8-18, teachers and school staff who support them and their parents and carers.
Program adaptability: I CAN Mentors and Program Facilitators can use their lived experiences of Autism to tailor session plans which make their stories relevant to the needs of the school and autistic students. The pace of the sessions can easily be adapted to students with intellectual disabilities. The program can also be adapted for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background students.
Staffing: Backfilling is not necessary but might be required.
Training requirements: Mentoring involves 4 to 16, 1-hour mentoring sessions. Schools sign an online service agreement agreeing to provide a room for I CAN with a supervising school staff member and I CAN staff being able to work in the staff room for 45 minutes following session delivery. The room must have chairs and a whiteboard, and audio/video facilities are desirable but not required.
Factors to consider: Face-to-face is available in all DET areas except Ovens Murray, Inner Gippsland, Outer Gippsland, Mallee, Central Highlands, and the Wimmera. The face-to-face program can be adapted online for government schools in all DET areas. The minimum number of student participants in a group is 5 students and the maximum is 16 students for face-to-face delivery or 9 students online.
Australian context: This program has been developed and applied in Australia.
Strength of Evidence
Level 3: Foundational and emerging evidence for program
• Mentees feel a sense of belonging in the program.
• Mentees are more socially connected with other people.
• School staff appreciate the strengths of their Autistic students.
• Mentees are more hopeful, self-confident, and accepting of themselves and their Autism or differences.
• School staff adopt practices that better support Autistic students.
• Students have improved their sense of belonging, communication skills, and mental wellbeing.
• The school environment is more accommodating of Autistic students.