Sonderly is a Vancouver charity that provides online technology education tools to parents and educators to access mental health and autism-related training materials to better support those with neurodiverse needs. We spoke with Tara Jensen to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
I have always been passionate about working with charities that help promote fundraising initiatives, support anti-bullying messaging, and empower women through supportive networks. I have worked with Ronald McDonald House, Canucks Autism Network, Pink Shirt Day and One Girl Can.
I am also passionate about providing parents and teachers with educational resources and support. That is the reason I chose to partner with Sonderly as a member of their Sonderly Parent and Community Panel. Being a parent can be challenging, especially with everything that is going on with the world currently. With Sonderly, they provide online technology education tools to parents and educators and have created a safe community to access mental health and autism-related training materials to better support those with neurodiverse needs.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Primarily, Sonderly’s mission is to provide parents, caregivers, and educators with accessible learning programs to help better understand the challenges of autism, and equip them to support children with declining mental health. Those that have experienced supporting someone with autism know how challenging it can be. By offering self-paced programs provided in an information module setting, Sonderly allows those taking the course to easily access and understand the content with many actionable ways to implement support at home or in the classroom. With access to the same information that educators may use, parents, can also be hands-on to support similar schedules and routines at home to better support neurodiverse children beyond the post-pandemic era.
When did you start/join it?
Within the last year, I’ve been working alongside Sonderly to spread their valuable programming. I expressed interest as it reflected my passions as mentioned above, with charities that help promote initiatives that I strongly resonate with. I continue to be extremely impressed and personally influenced by the programming. When I was approached to be a member of the Sonderly Parent and Community Panel, I was thrilled as I knew how important it is for families and educators to continue to receive the ongoing support that Sonderly provides.
What made you want to get involved?
I have always been vocal about my own mental health to my friends and family, and even beyond, with my social media community. I have spent years not fully understanding what I was going through and realized that there are parents out there that are navigating this with their children and feeling lost. I firmly believe that when we normalize talking about the different challenges we may be experiencing, it becomes easier to build that village around us. Sonderly gave such clear information in a clinically broken down way that I knew this was going to help so many parents worldwide.
What was the situation like when you started?
Sonderly had originally reached out to me at a time when I was unpacking a lot of my own struggles with sensory processing, social anxiety, and more. I didn’t fully understand what I was going through myself and also didn’t have many resources at the time, to help understand why I was going through it, until I started taking the courses. Not only was I able to educate myself through the Sonderly modules with ways to support my child and her peers, it also helped me to navigate my own diagnosis.’
How has it changed since?
Thanks to the information being available at my fingertips, it’s made it significantly easier for me to offer support to those in my circle and to better advocate for my own child’s needs. I am able to ask the right questions and not feel alone in the process. There is a community with education across multiple industries behind Sonderly that I am so grateful for.
What more needs to be done?
Parents specifically need to know this information is available to them and that they are not alone. Additionally, It’s important that we are taking advantage of this education with clinically proven information. When it comes to supported learning, both at school and at home, Sonderly can help children and adults with autism, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
How can our readers help?
The best way that any of us can help is to spread the message within the school and your inner circle. Talk openly with your school’s teachers and counsellors, bring up the course at PAC meetings for parents. Lastly, ask if your child’s education assistants have taken the courses and how you can support the learning at home. It’s important to lean on the community around you and remember that you are not going through these challenges alone.
Do you have any events coming up?
Sonderly is growing their mental health course offerings to address the need for educational resources on this topic.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Oh my, it’s so hard to choose just one! I’ve worked with so many amazing charities that offer such value to their community. If I had to choose one locally right now, it would be the Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. They are an incredible group aimed to make sure that young girls connect with a strong female mentor. The programs help young girls to realize their full potential through building up self-esteem, discovering their passions and strengths, and building a long-lasting relationship with their Big Sister. I had a Big Sister growing up who truly was a staple in building my future self, and I am still in contact with today! My daughter was recently paired with the most amazing Big Sister who is another rung on her support ladder helping her navigate and work through her anxiety and mental health. There are many ways to support their programming that help to fund matches, outings and ensure that every girl matches with a mentor.