Elaine Nicholson (Management Studies, 1995)
Elaine Nicholson (Management Studies, 1995) is the founder of Action for Asperger’s, a registered charity that provides a counselling and emotional support service for those affected by Asperger’s Syndrome.
After Elaine’s son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome four years ago, she decided to use her skills and experience to support other families living with the condition.
Elaine began her career working in management, and came to DMU in the mid-1990s to further her existing qualifications and skills. She says: “I came from a family set-up that had little academic prowess. The Postgraduate Diploma was perfect for me as it meant I could study whilst also working full-time. The course enabled me to get my foot on the rung of the Higher Education ladder and really empowered me to achieve more academically.”
Elaine spent many years working as a General Practice Manager for GP surgeries, writing articles for various professional magazines like Pulse, Practice Manager and GP, but it was in the early 2000s that her career rapidly began to change.
Studying at DMU had ignited Elaine’s passion for education, and she decided to return to Leicester to embark on another qualification - this time to become a qualified counsellor. After graduation, she worked as a counsellor for a mental health charity and later at a children’s charity.
It was whilst studying for an MSc in Child and Adolescent Psychodynamic Counselling at Birkbeck, University of London that Elaine’s son, Henry, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
Although advice and support was available following Henry’s diagnosis, Elaine longed to talk to someone in a professional context that really understood what it was like to ‘walk in her shoes’.
She says: “My counselling background is psychodynamic, but as my experience and knowledge of Asperger’s Syndrome increased, I saw that there was a need for a specialised counselling and emotional support service for people living with Asperger’s Syndrome, with a counsellor who is personally experienced as well as professionally qualified.”
In October 2008, Elaine set up Action for Asperger’s, a registered charity that provides a counselling and emotional support service for those affected by Asperger’s Syndrome.
She says:“I set the charity up as a reaction to hearing many, many different voices requesting help. I had to do something about that.”
Through the charity, Elaine provides a counselling, advocacy and support service for those whose lives have become adversely affected by the experience of Asperger's Syndrome.
She says: “Setting aside the science, I believe my best qualification is of life – of living with Asperger's Syndrome in my family. I do not close my office door each day and go home to a 'neurotypical' environment; my life is a 24/7 Asperger's experience. A lot of clients have remarked that they find reassuring to know that I am in a similar place to them emotionally, and my experiences have allowed me to really understand the difficulties faced by those with Asperger’s Syndrome.”
Since setting up the charity, Elaine has gone on to achieve a Postgraduate Certificate in Asperger's Syndrome and MA in Autism at Sheffield Hallam University. She credits DMU with giving her the confidence to pursue further study. She says: “It was the stepping stone I needed. It completely empowered me.”