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Siblings of children with autism make wonderful volunteers

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Siblings of children with autism have a great insight into how to support others with the condition

Two 14-year-olds were the newest volunteers at Focus Surrey Saturday club for children this past term. They impressed the organisers with their willingness to help support activities at the club. They are featured in the Sutton Parent Carer Forum Summer Newsletter 2023 which came out this week.

Izzy Pinto, 14, who attends Wallington High School for Girls, has volunteered for seven Saturdays over the past term as part of the volunteer component for the Duke of Edinburgh award.

Izzy is aware that autism is not widely understood and recommends others volunteer at Focus Surrey. “It would help them to understand that everyone is unique in their own way," Izzy said.

Since it was established in Sutton in September 2016, Focus Surrey has trained more than 380 volunteers how to engage with children with autism through play.

The majority of volunteers are 18 and over and come from varied backgrounds: people with family members with autism; university students studying psychology and education; carers; college students and people looking to gain work experience in childcare.

Volunteers play with the children in four different rooms: the art room, playroom, dance and music room and outdoor space where the children work towards targets set by a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst in consultation with parents.

This is the first time Focus Surrey has had children volunteer as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and it is fitting that the first DofE volunteers Izzy Pinto and Luca Masarati are siblings of children with autism.

Both are taking part in the volunteering component for their DofE Bronze Award.

Izzy supported this term with running the food technology sessions and Luca helped with food technology as well as supporting running the outdoor play activities.

Izzy primarily ran the food technology component of the club under the supervision of the operations lead Helene Doviken, supporting the children with a different task each week, such as make sandwiches, create fruit kebabs and decorate biscuits.

Izzy was asked to confirm any dietary requirements the children had. She also helped with photography, tidying up and sorting the toys.

Izzy whose brother Ethan, aged 12, attends the club said: "It has really helped me, when I first realised Ethan was autistic, I didn't know what it meant. Coming here has helped me understand more about him and made me come closer to him."

"After attending Focus Surrey, I find it easier to help out with my brother and help my mum.”

"It has helped to see other kids that are similar to him...I wanted to come not just to help my brother but other kids with autism."

"I have really enjoyed my time helping out here. I have really enjoyed seeing the children smile and helping out with activities. it really makes me happy."

Izzy's mother Louise Pinto said as her brother attends the Saturday club, Izzy felt this was the ideal place to volunteer, to support and help children with autism, like her brother.

"Isabella has grown up knowing about autism from an early age. She has an understanding, caring and nurturing manner, well suited for her volunteering role at Focus," Louise said.

"Focus Surrey is reliant on volunteers to help run the club and I am so pleased Isabella had the opportunity to help such a great charity during this term."

Seven years ago, Luca used to come to the club when it started out in Cheam and play with the other siblings in the Family room, while his brother Zac was receiving volunteer support to develop his communication, social and play skills. Their mother Lisa was with Luca and other parents and families who benefited from sharing their experiences.

Luca, who lives in Banstead, particularly enjoyed supporting the children playing outside on the trampoline because most of the children “loved that and really laughed on it."

Luca recommended that others volunteer to develop their understanding of autism. "It is sometimes hard to get the children to play different things but when they do it's a good feeling”.

Focus Surrey spends two days on training volunteers on the principals of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and how it can be used to support children with autism to develop their social, communication and play skills. Volunteers also receiving ongoing supervision by experienced ABA tutors and a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst.

This diverse and inclusive club welcomes all interested volunteers, and encourages them to sign up for term 13 in September 2023, to learn more about autism and social skills from its dedicated team.

If you would like to volunteer at Focus Surrey please email us at

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