Koala's Focus Areas
Koala's three focus areas respond to the key issues for Autisic and Neurodivergent people, living in society:
LACK OF SOCIAL CONNECTION: Research shows that authentic social connections can decrease the risk of mental health problems in individuals and increases the longevity of life by up to 50%*. However, many Autistic people/NDs report that there are often too many barriers to accessing social support (often communication and sensory-based).
POOR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH: ND people often struggle with their mental health which, in turn, affects executive functioning (EF) and can lead to burnout. EF impacts our ability to carry out simple tasks like eating healthily and exercising. 83% of ND individuals report issues with EF. The ability to create social connections, and accessing training on ND friendly strategies, increases effective EF.
LACK OF ENABLING FACTORS: Autistic and neurodivergent people, and their families, are often not enabled to become more independent within their community. There remains a vast lack of coproduction to enable ND people to truly find their place in the world and navigate education, relationships, work and other societal expectations that others take for granted.
Koala tackles these 3 focus areas by:
ENABLING SOCIAL CONNECTION: Ensuring that our groups and training are consistently sensory-safe, demand free and nurturing. This means that ND people are more likely to be able to engage with us. We work with people individually so that they can access our groups, many of whom are severely anxious. This may be as simple as meeting them at the front door or sending them a video explaining the small steps they can take to access a group.
IMPROVING MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH OUTCOMES: ND people having a safe and nurturing place that they can access will help to boost their mental health - this will then positively impact on physical health. We have many new projects planned to include, navigating safe relationships, health and wellbeing, parent training, self-advocacy and engaging with other support (including medical and authorities).
ENABLING OUR COMMUNITY: Autistic and ND people are encouraged to build the hub the way THEY want it. We run regular polls and surveys regarding new resources and are also due to start an ‘ideas wall’ where people can leave anonymous post-it notes with suggestions for the groups. We also promote and facilitate our community to also become volunteers. A key aspect of Koala is allowing ND people to engage with other professionals in a space where they feel safe and supported.
We know that Koala is already having an impact in these areas, and this is evidenced through our impact statement.
* Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine 7(7): e1000316.