“It’s time to change” – Jay’s story

Jay* recently joined our Safeside project for help connecting with people and building long-lasting friendships.

Jay was lonely and felt that because he was autistic, it would be easier for him to talk to people on the internet through apps. He told us he was always without a friend or partner at family events and felt the odd one out. He was looking to push himself out of his comfort zone, driven by a deep desire for acceptance and friendship.

Three cups - two containing hot chocolate and one with flapjacks pieces - sit on a white table with a pink stickered laptop. It is a sunny day and the table they are on is outside. Chairs can be seen too.
“I feel lonely and if I don’t push myself to talk to more people, this won’t change.” (Jay, Help and Connect)

Project worker Danny understood his motivation but Jay was taking risks. Moving safely towards a more hope-filled future was the aim and there were steps they needed to take to get there.

Danny helped Jay understand that although wanting to meet people is good, sharing too much information with people you’ve never met can put you in a vulnerable position, open to manipulation and potentially dangerous situations.

Through regular meet-ups, the pair worked out Jay’s goals, worked through the purpose and security settings of various mobile apps and what should be the parameters of his online footprint. What did it say about him? What did it need to reveal so that people could get to know him without knowing where he lived or visited?

Danny challenged Jay to provide a nice photo for his profile one week, three great facts about himself another. At the same time, his connector on the project had introduced him to a local Pint Night where the internet conversation skills he was working on with Danny could be tested in real-life.

Now Jay is continuing to build up his confidence, his conversation skills and his network. His keen interests in spicy food and paranormal activity make great conversation starters that help get more secure friendships off the ground.

He’s not terrified of what the internet can do but he is more aware of what to look out for and how much to share. He has also asked a new friend to the next family do.

Safeside forms part of Grapevine’s Help and Connect project in Coventry, funded by Coventry City Council for people with autism or a learning disability who don’t receive support from services.

While Safeside focuses on equipping participants with the tools and knowledge to help them live safely on and offline, the other Help and Connect strands build connections, networks of community support, work prospects and better health.

Do you know someone who could benefit from working with Danny on Safeside or some of the other aspects of Help and Connect? Email Naomi at nmadden@grapevinecovandwarks.org to submit a referral either for yourself or someone you know.

Help and Connect is part of Grapevine’s #StrengtheningPeople action strand.

*Name changed to protect Jay’s identity.