What is Befriending/Buddying?

Befriending involves volunteers being trained and supported to provide flexible and quality support to individuals and families affected by autistic spectrum disorders. Befriending is part of the National Autistic Society’s Volunteering Network.

Befriending schemes offer the opportunity for a supportive one-to-one relationship between someone affected by an ASD or a family member and a volunteer befriender.

Buddying is the same as befriending but the volunteer is matched as closely as possible in age with the young person with ASD.

Each scheme has a trained Coordinator and a team of trained volunteer befrienders/buddies. Befrienders/buddies can be paired to an individual with either autism or Asperger syndrome or can be paired to a sibling or someone else in the family. Between them, the people involved decide how often the befriender/buddy will visit and what kind of things they will do together. Befrienders/buddies can take a young person to a park, cinema, shopping, bowling or maybe go to a youth club social or concert with an older teenager.

What parents of young people with ASD have said….

Chris and Helen Moore and Thomas, (Sheffield Jigsaw Befriending scheme)

“Thomas has benefited enormously socially and in many other ways through his befriender, Louise. He will miss her greatly and I know he will always remember her and so will we.”

Another Sheffield parent says,

“Emma is a great role model for my daughter, Judith, especially as they are not very far apart in age.”

Judith says,

“Emma is good because she is friendly and she tells me about what she does in University.”

What volunteer befrienders have said.....

On Befriending...

“I have had a wonderful relationship with Davey, and get on well with his parents and siblings.”

“I only wish I’d known about and participated in the scheme in the first year of my studies!”

On the training....

“The training was excellent, informative and pitched at the right level, it gave a good background introduction to the condition of autism. I made lots of new friends and experienced new things. It’s been a great experience, I hope to carry on.”

On the support offered to volunteers....

The regular volunteer support sessions are ideal as you get to update your training / information and discuss any problems with your Coordinator and the other volunteers as you know they will have encountered similar problems and situations. It’s also good to know that if there is a problem, one phone call is all you need!

The National Autistic Society 2004

The National Autistic Society is a company limited by guarantee

Registered in England No. 1205298

Registered Office: 393 City RoadLondonEC1V 1NG

Registered as a Charity. No. 269425

Why was befriending set up?

Requests to Development Officers from parents, carers and The National Autistic Society members prompted the two pilot projects in Glasgow (Parent to Parent) and Sheffield (Jigsaw Befriending). The National Autistic Society recognised that there was a very real need for both schemes to be available as widely as possible.

All schemes are organised locally and offer a practical structure for recruitment, training and support for the volunteers. Each scheme can be slightly different according to what the people involved feel is appropriate for the needs in the local area. Sometimes the funding that we have available determines the kind of people that we can support through an individual befriending scheme.

Who can become a befriender/buddy?

Volunteer befrienders/buddies do not need to be ‘experts’ in autism. We’re looking for male and female volunteers who are approachable, reliable, willing to learn and sensitive to the needs of others. We provide initial and ongoing training and support and we also reimburse travel expenses. Volunteers normally need to be 18 or over but in some circumstances we are able to accept volunteers of 16 or 17, for example on Buddy schemes such as this one.

What do befrienders/buddies do?

Befrienders can be matched with a child or adult affected by autism, or could spend time with others in the family - brothers, sisters, mum or dad. They do a huge variety of things:

Maureen befriends Robbie. Sometimes they stay in the house with Robbie’s little brother watching videos or talking and playing. Robbie loves washing machines so sometimes they’ll make pictures of washing machines, or sometimes they go out to electrical shops to look at washing machines!

Kyoko befriends Lucy, they usually meet for lunch in town. Kyoko is a student and Lucy has a job so this suits them both.

Ruth befriends Tom, and she usually spends some time at the end of her visit having a cup of tea with Tom’s mum.

Some befrienders always spend their time in the house with the family, others go out and about if this feels right for all the people involved.

What makes a good Befriender/Buddy?
Personal Qualities

Warmth, an ability to engage in a relationship (all volunteers come to training not knowing anyone, have initiated conversations and been friendly to others, this is a skill!)

Good communication / interpersonal skills (meeting a family, building a relationship with their befriendee, with the Coordinator and other volunteers)

A good level of self-awareness (attending support group meetings and talking to the

Coordinator will help, also by thinking about what would make befriending enjoyable for you and what you would like to get from it)

An ability to reflect on the befriending relationship

An ability to work on own / use initiative / common sense (risk assessment etc, but also knowing where to turn to for help)

Some insight into the possible significance and importance of the befriending relationship (session on endings, monitoring the situation at support group meetings, having an awareness of where things might go wrong)

Reliable, consistent, dependable (knowing autism demonstrates the importance and significance of this, things go wrong but keeping people informed is vital)

An ability to handle a level of stress (support network, Coordinator’s phone number, Head of Volunteering’s mobile number)

An awareness of own needs in befriending work

Empathy and understanding

Open-minded and willing to learn

Personal Values

Accepting others for who they are and respecting them as being of equal worth

An ability to respect others choices / lifestyle / rights etc. (these are things that need to be thought through before hand and discussed if issues arise)

Not imposing own values and beliefs and an ability to appreciate and respect differences, race, gender etc.

Other important things

A commitment to work within organisational boundaries

Willingness to attend and make use of training and support meetings

Ability to work within our confidentiality policy (covered in training)

Keeping in touch – vital especially if people move, or are on an extended holiday or are having problems or want to end.

Filling in Visit Records & expenses forms, returning Befriending Agreements

The National Autistic Society 2004

The National Autistic Society is a company limited by guarantee

Registered in England No. 1205298

Registered Office: 393 City RoadLondonEC1V 1NG

Registered as a Charity. No. 269425