Milena Bates

Milena Bates (MNLEND 2021-22), co-founder of the Minnesota Autistic Alliance, is recruiting self-advocates for new projects supported by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Cultivate, a 10-hour online self-advocacy course covering how to identify needs, navigate barriers, and understand intersectionality (among other topics), begins August 23. It is designed for and by neurodivergent self-advocates. Lattice is a partnering program that will connect a team of three partners best suited to the support needs of a self-advocate. The group also is recruiting writers for an accessible, digital resource database.

Bates and Jules Edwards (MNLEND 2020-21) are leading the Alliance. The group became a non-profit organization last year after beginning as a social media group in 2018.

Edwards is also a gardener, and the course and partnering program names are meant to evoke a sense of nurturing and supported growth.

“Our goal with Lattice is to create a new version of the support people have been getting in our Facebook group. It’s a little like mentoring, but a more interwoven support from multiple sources, rather than the power dynamic of a single mentor,” Bates said. “With the database, we’re trying to push the limits of accessibility, and that’s a big challenge, we’re finding.”

As a MNLEND fellow, Bates helped conduct a literature review that was part of the Institute’s contribution to a multi-year, multi-university curriculum for medical professionals working with patients with disabilities. She’s now advising a separate team that is developing a conference for medical professionals on a similar topic to be held early next year.

“All of this work is about creating more accessibility and more understanding around neurodivergence,” Bates said. “I would love more professionals and others to know about the social model of disability.” The model presents disability not as a problem to be solved for an individual but as a societal challenge to remove barriers to full participation.

Contact admin@mnautisticalliance.org for more information about all three programs.