DMU Alumna Elaine Nicholson from De Montfort University (DMU) was honoured to receive the Alumnus of the Month in November.
She has now been named as alumnus of the month because she received an MBE for identifying a need to help people affected by autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
The alumnus of the month nominations are open all year round. Once an alumnus gets nominated by either a fellow alumni, student, or member of staff, they are added to the pool of nominations.
Winners are then selected from this year round based upon those who have made exceptional contributions to their field of profession, or have had a significant impact on their local community.
She said: “It means a great deal. I feel a very strong connection to the university. I couldn't be more proud.”
Elaine studied Management Studies at DMU and graduated in 1995. She chose to study at DMU because they offered excellent postgraduate packages.
She said DMU helped her in her career: “I studied management, and though I changed careers mid-way, from management to counselling, the management side of things has helped me to run our very successful organisation, growing it from 20 clients in 2012 to more than 3,000 clients worldwide today. Without good management this wouldn’t have been possible.”
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When asked what her fondest memory at DMU was, Elaine said: “Graduation day. As a mature student who hadn't had the undergraduate experience, graduating in a cap and gown was something to be prized.”
Elaine now works as the CEO and Counsellor of Action for Asperger’s, a charity working internationally counselling people who have become adversely affected by the experience of autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
“My greatest achievement was setting up Action for Asperger’s from one client on my home sofa to 3,000 clients and growing rapidly worldwide,” she said. “In August 2012 we had 20 clients. So in six years the growth has been massive and we now have a world first, an autism-specialist counselling centre in Corby, Northants.
“I developed a model of counselling that actually works with autistic thinkers, thereby helping to improve their mental health and their overall quality of life; additionally, we aid the mental health of those who live in a close relationship with a person affected by autism.”
Elaine received an MBE for spotting that there was a need for this type of support.
She explained: “There was no bespoke therapeutic model for autistic thinkers and so I created one and acted upon it. I also work tirelessly, virtually every waking hour, helping to improve the mental health of these individuals who account for 2 per cent of the worldwide population.”
“I felt ecstatic, honoured and humbled all at the same time. The MBE came as a complete surprise.”
Elaine’s message to students is: “At the age of 47 the idea of Action for Asperger’s occurred to me, I am 57 now. I had diversified my career life previously, going from management to counselling at the age of 40.
“Then autism hit with a second close family member being given the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, and suddenly I found myself following a different trajectory.”
She found she learnt all that she could about autism via post-graduate studies and a master’s degree.
“I then merged my autism academic and experiential knowledge and my counselling knowledge together to create specialist autism-cognisant counselling. The old adage of one door closing while another opens is very true in my case.
“Life and living is a book with many chapters in it, this being one large chapter of my life. Never think that you have seen all there is that life has to offer. My story proves that there is potentially something new around every corner regardless of age. Never give up. Be open to what the universe has in store for you.”
Posted on Wednesday 16th January 2019