Advocacy ND programme

In recognition of AchieveAbility's participatory approach to the WFDA adult work the National Lottery have funded the WFDA for two years to provide a programme of Advocacy for neurodivergent (ND) adults.

For the project “Advocacy supporting neurodivergent adults” the WFDA has partnered with AchieveAbility to support some of the most marginalised adults in our society who are Neurodivergent (ND).

AchieveAbility has a track record of working with the most vulnerable particularly through their work with St Mungo’s. The partnership will bring expertise in advocacy, mentoring, technology and communications skills.

AchieveAbility will provide the day-to-day supervision of the Advocate project as they will also be devising and delivering the training for the Advocates and the delivery of the Zoom sessions.

We have worked with 18 ND advocates who are passionate about their contribution to the Adult service, which comprise of: monthly Adult meetups and our “Next Step” sessions for developing your skills in communications.

Our advocates will
• support ND adults to participate in discussions
• enable more ND people to fulfill their potential
• empower the ND voice
• actively encourage participants to deliver talks on a topic that they feel passionate about
• act as role models for the livedIn experiences
• facilitate speaker topics to be chosen by participants
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A partnership between AchieveAbility, the WFDA and the National Lottery 
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Advocates programme " Advocacy 4 ND " funded by the National Lottery started in 2022. A partnership between AchieveAbility and Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association ( WFDA)

One of the First Advocate talks in 2022 by Becki Oxley 
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An example of one of our training sessions.
Please see the PDF of this presentation

 
Advocate Training Body Language [pdf]

Also the training on Embracing your Strengths

https://youtu.be/LCH1hHUbGnc
Examples of our Advocate talks

Advocate talk by Sadia Mirza on the Benefits of Mindfulness

https://youtu.be/xVJum8B8ito

Our Advocate talk at the WFDA Annual General Meeting. Providing an overview of the two year work

Kenyah Nyameche and Maddie Kamara

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV-66TRcGJI

Advocacy supporting the mental health of neurodivergent adults
A partnership project delivered by the WFDA and AchieveAbility (AA)


Final Evaluation for National Lottery Community fund

Overview
This project took place due to National Lottery funding of £22,070 (2022-2024). Previously we had found that it is the ND adults themselves who make the greater impact in ensuring the well being of other more vulnerable ND Adults. This was particularly so, since Covid- 19. Therefore the Advocate programme was the result of our increasingly inclusive approach to actively encourage our ND participants to deliver a talk. The project built on these experiences as a community of neurodivergent adults. This was done through mentoring and support for ND adults to participate much more in discussion, provide talks and presentations on a range of topics that reflected their lived experience; or on subjects they were particularly interested in. The positive experience of this work empowered these ND voices to reach out to those who have had limited access or not accessed these services. This can be evidenced by the evaluation findings of these ND voices showing greater support for well being and mental health in this community.

As planned the WFDA and AchieveAbility partnership brought expertise in advocacy, mentoring, technology and communications skills to this project. AchieveAbility provided the day-to-day supervision of the Advocate project. The training for the Advocates and the delivery of the Zoom sessions was also delivered by AchieveAbility. The WFDA delivered the screening which was key to the awareness of participant strengths to develop their skills in emotional intelligence, communication and technology.

The project has fulfilled the National Lottery aims to:
1)Enable more people to fulfill their potential by working to address issues at the earliest possible stage.

2) Bring people together & build strong relationships in and across communities.

Project Delivery

Nine Advocates were recruited in year 2022 and nine in year 2023. All were neurodivergent. There were two Advocate planning meetings in January 22 and January 23 this was to set up the Advocacy Programme in supporting the mental health of neurodivergent (ND) adults and to include any screening. The gender mix was more female. The diversity was good with advocates drawn from a range of cultural backgrounds. Recruitment was about selfadvocacy to the project leader therefore Advocates were accepted on a first come first served basis. All Advocates are assessed as being neurodivergent. Our advocates were drawn from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. All Advocates are assessed as being neurodivergent and their expertise covers fields such as: Town Planning, Well being, Legal
knowledge, Assistive Technology, Psychology, Social Work, Speech therapy, Social Media, Marketing and Retail.

All Zoom sessions last 1.5 to 2 hours. There is regular attendance of 20-30
neurodivergent adults drawn primarily from London but also from: Scotland, Wales, Southern and Northern England. A Zoom invite is sent out three days before the event to 200 people on the WFDA database. There were flyers for each event, which are posted on the WFDA web site. We now have a database of over 200 people who have expressed an interest in this
provision. In addition, we use Jiscmail, Facebook and Instagram to raise awareness of our work.

Many participants contact us through word of mouth, our partnerships and through the screening service, which can often be a progression route to our Zoom sessions. The screening can be a powerful experience for our participants as the information revealed means gaining much greater knowledge about who they are.

Screening is a key part of the project as we recognise that screening is key to the mental health of neurodivergent adults and therefore core to our work. We carry out two types of screening. The first is a checklist screening for dyslexia only which is carried out over the phone followed by a Zoom meeting for a fuller report. Screenings have increased with more people accessing our services. All people screened receive a report to outline the result of the process. In the lifetime of the project there have been 63 screenings in the first year and 130 in the second year.

Our project objectives have been met and over the two year period we have designed and delivered a bespoke set of 6 advocacy training sessions for ND adults that can be shared as an exemplar of the practice. See link to training for Body Language.

2022-23:
The role of the Advocate
Embracing your Strengths
Safeguarding
2023-24:
Listening skills
Body Language
How to stay Focused

All sessions were recorded with consent and the films were then circulated with any presentation slides. As we have many enquiries for our recordings, these can then be transferred to either YouTube or Vimeo. Alongside the bespoke Adbocate talks, our Advocates also participated in the more formal external speaker events where high profile speakers are invited to present on key topics. Advocates took part in discussions and encouraged others to feel included.

In 2023 Advocates were asked to give a reflective and informative talk for the WFDA AGM on 29 November 2023. Please see link below for you to access
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV-66TRcGJI

There have been 18 bespoke advocate talks.Talks were delivered with support from another advocate

Advocate 2022 talks
April.    Managing Mental Health 
May  My Journey in Managing my Manager  
June  Mindfulness 
July  Listening  
August  Managing Inner Emotions   
September Dealing with Self-Employment 
October Resilience in the Workplace
November ND thinking for planning
December Overcoming addiction and trauma in ND

Advocate 2023 talks
January: Neurodiversity Inclusion by Design
February: How to Stand by Your Position in the Workplace
March: Creativity, Niche, Connections: Tips, Tricks & One Dyslexics Journey to Self Awareness
April: Assistive Technology made easy
May: How company policies affect the way ND people are treated
June: Havening Techniques
October: Design Minds and being Neurodivergent

November: Presentation to the WFDA AGM on the Advocate project
January 24: Assistive Technology on a Budget

The evaluation showed the project was meeting the outcomes for the funder, which is to involve communities and people from the start, build on strengths, connect with the community. There have been two planning meetings and 3 reflective sessions for evaluation purposes

 Following our interim evaluation the WFDA Adult safeguarding policy was set in place.

 This work has now generated a WhatsApp group to continue and strengthen these voices for advocacy.

 We have trained 18 ND advocates

 We have delivered 36 Zoom sessions

 We have provided screening for 193 ND individuals

 We have supported further 60 participants to take part in discussion and talks.

 We have reached over 200 people, through our circulation of the zoom sessions, through Jiscmail, Mailchimp our database, social media and our web site.

Advocate Feedback in 2022
• The combination of the screening for neurodivergent conditions, then referral to the adult group work was considered excellent.
• The training was thought to be well focused
• The management of the project is working well with the right balance of
structure but flexibility for advocates to make key choices. There is freedom
but guidance is at hand
• The programme has empowered the Advocates and enabled them to become more insightful of themselves and others.
• They have developed new skills in: Communications, technology and how to
work as a team.
• The teamwork and networking have provided positive experiences and so
there are fewer barriers and more skills for resilience
• The group works well, sharing concerns, issues, techniques for short cuts.
• The tools for Advocacy enable the group to work effectively as role models
• The teamwork is excellent as they are like-minded people, they are less
isolated with the peer support.


Advocate feedback in 2023:
“ Through the group I got the opportunity to develop a presentation and deliver it live on a zoom call. As my career to date had not required such skills I had no experience with presentations and had never given a talk, whether live on zoom or anywhere else. Now through this experience I have had the opportunity to learn how to put a presentation together and speak publicly about a subject that I have retrained in and I know will become my new career”. 

“I have now given 3 presentations to the organisation at work on dyslexia and neurodiversity. Without the WFDA and the Advocacy Group, I am not sure I would have been as confident to do it and also the information I share would not have been as good or impactful. As I was able to share a lot of the experiences I have that are common amongst other dyslexics and neurodivergent people”.

“While I have had to actively listen with great care in my work for years, I found this training refreshing, and a great reminder of the value of deeply and wholly listening to someone (as well as oneself), I've been able to hear out a person in quite a few situations in which I may previously have been less tolerant”

“Over my time with WFDA, it has been impactful for all of us who have been lucky enough to find out about WFDA and take part in the group. When I have been talking to advocates when preparing for my presentation, we all say the same thing about how beneficial we find the sessions as often it's just the talking and sharing of personal experiences that we all get so much out of and can relate to”

“I have been able to explore and understand the impact of my diagnosis of dyslexia. This community offer’s me a wealth of information and knowledge which has been gathered from individual lived experiences and a professional knowledge base. This process has shown me how each of us builds our resilience. I was able to share my master’s dissertation with AchieveAbility. With their help and support this was included in the AchieveAbility e-journal. I had previously felt that my work although it passed was not of an academic standard”

“I can't think of how it can be improved, as Katherine does a great job with all the communications. My hope it that it keeps going for many years to come and that it keeps being online so that myself and other people who would not easily be able to make it to sessions in person can online as this is more accessible and inclusive to all”. 

“This project has been one of the most positive and invaluable experiences I have had the opportunity to take part in because of the confidence it has given me”.