Autism Spectrum Australia

Mentors: the Knowledge Maker

  • Posted: 11/06/2015
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hey guys, sorry about the delay with the post. If I had a word for the past month, it would be May-hem. Mayhem is an interesting thing. I like to think that mayhem is the universe’s way of having a sense of humour and you are the punchline. It may sound a little grim but when you look at it from the outside the box, it seems pretty funny.


There is a problem about mayhem though, if we face it alone, we’re in trouble! We can't face every challenge that life throws at us alone, we need someone there to help us understand why we are going through hardships or why something isn't working. Even, sometimes to help us ask ourselves the right questions. That's where mentors come in. Thought this was a mayhem blog, didn't you?


Teachers teach, leaders lead and mentors ment? No that can't be right! Mentors in movies are the ones who teach the hero the necessary skills needed in order to face tremendous tasks ahead. Mentors are the reason why people are constantly learning long after we put the books down after school and uni.


Some say there are three kinds of people in the world: sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. It's a simple analogy; the sheep follow in herds, the wolves attack the sheep and the sheep dogs defend the sheep. I believe that's a bad analogy, society cannot consist with only three varieties of people. What are the doctors? The lawyers? Other kinds of people? Mentors don't fit into that analogy.


Mentors are here to help us understand the difficult parts of life and society, because if there is anything that we as a people need it’s a hand for when things get tough.



I searched for information about mentoring. As I searched further and further I realised I should just talk to Berinda Karp, who mentors people on the spectrum. Here is what she had to say about mentoring:


Mentoring is where a more experienced person in a particular field guides, encourages and sometimes educates a person with less experience. For example, in the Transition and orientation to TAFE program that I run at TAFE, I like to include sessions with graduated students on the spectrum. Those that have experienced tertiary studies, used different supports and reasonable adjustments to explain to the new students what it was like for them. The message is received better from those that have a lived experience of the situation than it just being theory based coming from a ‘teacher’. I have recently included a man to conduct Intervention Programs with me, as my protégé and he is implementing mentoring skills to assist the client. When they are meltdown mode, someone who has experienced meltdowns can help the other through the situation and develop strategies for future use.


I have a set way of mentoring people on the spectrum. Together we identify skills that they which to develop to achieve a goal. Then, with them we scaffold smaller achievable steps to work towards this. For example, the person may not know how to ask the teacher a question in class. We identify what are appropriate questions to ask, when is a good time to ask, and the best way to do this. Then we practice it between us, next step is to practice it with others around with prompts and support, then lastly to do it on their own and monitor success. This method can be applied to most situations.


For those on the spectrum that are currently being mentored I say accept support –you might think you know everything but in life there is always more to learn.

The person allocated as your mentor is there because you need it and they have the skills to impart knowledge.

It may be a bit frustrating taking small steps but this method ensures success so you can move onto another skill set.

Ask, if you don’t understand anything and ask if you want to try a different mentor if the partnership isn’t working for whatever reason.

Life long learning is the key to Life !


I was an unlucky kid in high school. Being bullied around the clock made for a not-so-fun time. My parents did their best to get me the help I needed. I was glad I got the help; it’s how I got to where I am today. I mean if I hadn’t seen the therapist she wouldn’t have discovered my autism which meant I wouldn’t have been tested and I would still be lost today.


Diagnosis is just one thing though. I had to mentor myself into finding out coping mechanisms in the school ground and how to dodge the bullies’ humiliating acts. Mum and Dad helped me at home with my concentration and memory. You could say my mum and dad were my original mentors.


Once I left high school I met so many people who went on to mentor me.


In educational ways, I had two mentors at TAFE. They were Berinda Karp, who helped me transition from one type of learning to another (amongst the millions of other things she has taught me), and Christine Meredith, who knew more about me than I did! She showed me how to improve my concentration in the classroom and when to realise I was overloading on information.


When it came to working I have so far had three mentors. Ursula Todd and Vicky Little helped me with my self-confidence. They showed me that I still needed to compensate for myself when unemployed and in the end showed me how to be assertive when getting a job. Melissa Wilton, who you may remember from one of the previous blogs was helpful in getting me used to the office type work setting.


In life, I have had my parents, they have taught me things all through my life and continue to, even if I don’t pay attention all the time. I am proud to say that I have had the pleasure of having John Kelly and Matthew Jackson who have taught me so much about the spirit that is Thomas Kuzma.


Matthew has been mentoring me on a weekly basis about values, life goals and understanding who I am on the inside. It has been an interesting journey, and I suggest you check out his business called “Affectors”.


John Kelly has helped me unlock my true potential. He saw my love for writing so he helped put together the “Blue Print” and “Game on” Projects with David Cretney. He read my blogs and was the one to ask me to write a blog for this wonderful organisation. In the end when I think about it, I have him to thank for my latest triumphs. That won’t stop me from pontificating about myself though. So John, I want to say thank you for everything you have done. You have helped make my world a different kind of brilliant.



Well that’s about it for this week’s blog. Mentoring is an important part of life. It’s what connects us together, and helps build us up. The problem is, there are so many people that fall in the gaps with no help. That is why I have begun trialling an approach to mentoring, here at Aspect, to help out teens in high school, helping them find a path into a better tomorrow based on what I’ve learnt and have to offer



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Mentors: the Knowledge Maker