Psychology Student Megan Wolstenholme volunteered with a National Autistic Society Youth group as part of the Psychology Employability Programme.
Interview with Megan
How and why did you choose to volunteer your time?
“I chose to volunteer with The National Autistic Society to provide a sports club every Sunday for children with Autism. I chose to volunteer because I am passionate about helping others and this organisation is well known for providing amazing support for those with Autism. Also, I am interested in pursuing a career that involves supporting people in the community so I felt that this role would give me great experience in this area. ”
Had you worked with a charity or organisation before starting your project with the organisation?
"Yes. Before volunteering NAS, I volunteered for Rossendale Rays which is a local special needs swimming club."
Why did the organisation need a volunteer?
"The organisation needed volunteers to help support the children at the sports club. It would be very challenging to support a group of children doing sports and so they needed a small team of people to provide some extra care. The role involved spending an hour a week either at the climbing wall or fitness class and spending time with the children to encourage and help them by being enthusiastic and friendly."
What skills did you use and develop working with the organisation? Did you learn any new skills?
"A very important thing that I learnt through this experience was how large the Autism spectrum is and for this reason I developed the ability to be more open minded and also more flexible to meet different people’s needs. I massively developed my communication skills while volunteering for the NAS and I learnt different techniques for effective communication with those who struggle to communicate."
How did you help the organisation?
"I helped the organisation by being part of an enthusiastic team who encourage the children to go out of their comfort zones and in turn become more confident, which I believe is what NAS is about."
What was the best thing you think you did for the organisation?
“The best thing I did for the organisation was offering my time each week to help provide a great experience for the children. I feel that the most important part of this role was being enthusiastic and outgoing for the children as it would encourage them to make progress which was what the club is about.”
What was the best thing about the project for you?
“The best thing about the project for me was watching how well the children developed in confidence each week. I found this really rewarding.”
What was the result- has it led to more projects with the organisation?
"I am hoping to become more involved with the NAS after I graduate to gain more experience working with people with ASD."
Did you get a job because of it?
"No, but I have started a new voluntary role with Lancashire County Council which involves befriending people in the public. My role for the NAS helped me to pursue this voluntary role because it boosted my confidence in working within the community."
What career do you hope to pursue at the end of your course and how has your project helped you achieve that? Did it help you make any decisions on your career?
"I would like a career in offering support to vulnerable people in the community using creativity. My voluntary role will help me achieve that because it has given me experience supporting Autistic children. It did help me make decisions about my career because it helped me to see how a climbing wall and a fitness class can increase confidence, which makes a world of difference."
Can you describe what it’s like studying at a top global 1% Lancaster University?
"I feel extremely lucky to be able to study at Lancaster University and just being on the campus makes me feel that. One thing that has always stood out to me at Lancaster is how friendly everyone is and how the campus feels like a community. The staff are also very friendly and are always happy to help in any way they can. The facilities are great because everything you need is easy to find on campus whether it be something from the library, careers advice, study space or even food/drink as many shops are available to you on campus. My university experience has been amazing and I believe that Lancaster University made it that way."
Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?
"Yes. The course is very broad so it enables you to learn about a wide range of topics and for this reason there are a broad range of career options available. I would say that if a person struggles with maths then they should be prepared to work hard at statistics but if you’re prepared to practice it then it will all make sense."