Meet Helen Boden, the CEO of I AM—Celebrating Autism in Greater Manchester, UK.
A love for people and change has been a motivator for Helen Boden, and now, at the height of her career, she is the newly appointed CEO of I AM—Celebrating Autism in Greater Manchester, UK. The charity organization focuses on supporting autistic individuals and their families/caregivers to enable them to achieve their goals and aspirations.
With 25 years dedicated to working within the neurodiverse sector, Helen has worked with directors and CEOs of multinational companies, marginalized individuals and those who have been excluded from society.
Helen credits her accomplishments to the places she visits and the people she’s met on her journey. She’s worked with neurodiverse young people and adults who were offenders (or at risk of offending), and the long-term unemployed. She believes her greatest accomplishment is making an impact in the lives of some of these individuals.
Helen hopes to help create a society where individualism is valued and equality is afforded to all. A society where access to support services and resources is readily available without having to fight and struggle to attain them. Moreover, she envisions and strives for a society where diversity is seen as both a strength and an ability.
Helen is constantly reminded of the daily wins as her motivation to “go at it” each day. For example, the wins of those who say hello after not speaking for weeks and the individuals who were helped by one of I AM’s key workers and have finally mustered the courage to leave their homes.
Among these is the parent of the child who phoned I AM’s information line in a crisis because their child had received 19 detentions for walking out of class and not using cutlery in the school cafeteria.
“Cheesy as it may be, my inspiration comes from these small wins and those we support who ‘just keep going’ despite everything they face. If they can keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, every day no matter how hard it might be then I can’t possibly not follow their example. They are the inspiration,” says Helen.
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Given the wealth of knowledge and experience that I AM has gained through years of service, Helen’s goal is to ensure that I AM shares its knowledge and experience over a greater landscape to reach more people who can benefit from it.
Advice for families affected by autism
Helen encourages parents to be their child’s biggest cheerleader—she believes a parent knows their child best. However, though parents play an important role in supporting their children, it’s important for parents to remember that they, too, need support. She advises parents to surround themselves with people who can understand their challenges, providing a safe space to offload, cry and laugh.
She adds: “I think this is probably what I AM does best, we create a safe space. Whether it is individuals who are autistic or parents, they know that when they come to us they are among friends.”
This article was featured in Issue 121 – Autism Awareness Month
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