Taking the First Step Towards Achieving Goals
It’s a common scenario: young people with a neurodiverse diagnosis, despite average or above average intelligence, graduate from high school only to find themselves unable to successfully transition to the worlds of college and employment. Whether they are unable to find their passion, hampered by social skill challenges, or just spending too much time playing video games in their bedrooms, examples of this “failure to launch” have become very common. Meanwhile, a lot of the support for those of us with different brains stops once we become adults – resulting in few resources being available to help. That’s why we created the Different Brains Mentorship Program!
The Story of Different Brains Intern Reuben (5 min 34 sec)
Program participants (trainees) are exposed to the basics of new media journalism, while being given opportunities to develop social skills in a real professional workplace environment. The program itself is flexible, both in terms of hours and activities, to allow for the needs of every individual. During their time with us, trainees are given the opportunity to: write, produce, and edit videos and audio podcasts; transcribe interviews; write articles and blogs; practice research skills; and develop multiple forms of web content.
Different Brains interns Michael Moreno (left) and Andrew Barry (right)
This direct, hands-on work gives them experience to add to resumes, the opportunity to have real credits on published content, and the satisfaction of working on media that gets distributed to the public and makes a positive difference. Simultaneously, trainees learn basic job skills including creating and maintaining a work schedule, participating in staff meetings, handling deadlines, and more. But the job skills are just the tip of the iceberg!
Different Brains intern Zachary Hoaglund films intern Emily Buckley as she hosts an episode of “The Week in Neurodiversity”
Helping the Neurodivergent Find Their Voice
Many of our interns, as part of their social challenges, are introverted and may not be used to speaking for themselves. However, starting with their initial applications (which must be initiated and completed by the interns themselves), everyone we mentor is required to move out of their “quiet comfort zones”. As members of a production team, interns are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas, as well as constructive criticism. They also must participate in weekly “staff meetings” and group discussions, all the while being presented with situations that require their input. During the pandemic, these have moved to virtual zoom calls.
Evan Snow (left) of Choose954 speaks with intern Michael Moreno
Additionally, all trainees must appear on camera (including being the subject of green screen interviews, and hosting episodes of The Week in Neurodiversity), and are given the opportunities to write articles and produce their own podcasts, videos, and more. Finally, the process offers them important experience as an advocate – not just for themselves, but for everyone that may have a “different brain.” We want to make sure that by the end of their time with us, our mentor subjects are ready to become mentors themselves!
The Different Brains interns welcome oceanographer Evan Forde (center pink shirt) and autism self-advocate Connor Cunningham (center, seated)
Screenshot of a recent virtual team meeting via Zoom.
Expanding Social Skills & Learning About the Professional World
Trainees also regularly take part in meetings with visitors to the office. From thought leaders to local professionals to inspiring self-advocates, these visitors come from of all different walks of life and share their diverse perspectives and unique wisdom. During these meetings our interns are assisted and encouraged to learn how to introduce and talk about themselves while hearing about a variety of career and business possibilities.
Intern Derek Dunston monitors an interview of Down syndrome self-advocate Kayla McKeon of the NDSS
This allows our trainees to be exposed to a wide range of careers and people (which is something our society in general doesn’t give young people the chance to do) while making connections to local business leaders. It also gives the trainees practice at taking part in an interactive, multi-participant discussion. And – with a past roster that has included NFL players, oceanographers, filmmakers, best selling authors, celebrated members of the legal system, and more – it’s also pretty fun!
The Next Generation of Neurodiversity!
We put our trainees on a path towards discovering a career and passion, but to also help develop the next generation of neurodiversity advocates. We want everyone to emerge from our program with clear goals, focus, and the tools to maximize their independence while advocating for themselves and others.
In response to the pandemic, we have moved our mentorship program into the virtual world — so now we can accept interns from all over the globe! For more information about the program or to volunteer, please email us at email@example.com
Want to help us mentor even more individuals? Consider giving us a donation!