Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

Sarah Paterson

Category: Local communities

Members find her friendly, approachable and helpful and they love the events she leads.

First dates and new mates

Sarah draws on personal experience to help adults living with learning disabilities and autism form friendships and find love.

Dates-n-mates Aberdeen is part of Scotland’s first dating and friendship agency run by and for people with learning disabilities. Under C-Change Scotland – an organisation supporting people with additional needs – dates-n-mates helps its members create meaningful friendships and relationships.

Meet Sarah

As the Director of dates-n-mates Aberdeen, Sarah is very open about her personal experiences.

Having been diagnosed with autism at an early age, Sarah found it difficult to express her emotions and communicate. As a result, she felt excluded at school and began to suffer from mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.

“I was never able to express my emotions or communicated properly. I was never comfortable around groups of people because I was never used to it before, I didn’t know how to communicate or include myself in conversations and activities with people.”

When Sarah left school at 16, she had more freedom and went to college.

“I saw it as a new chapter in my life and didn’t want to be the same shy and quiet person I used to be.”

A large part of this was her role at dates-n-mates…

Friendly, approachable and helpful

When Sarah became Director of dates-n-mates in 2015, she sometimes struggled. Low confidence and self-doubt played a part, but Sarah battled through to put all her energy into helping others.

Sarah says, “being sociable around our members was challenging but the more involved I got in the project the more relaxed and confident I became”.

“Our members regularly tell us that they love everything Sarah does for dates-n-mates,” says Louise McEwan, Project Development Coordinator at dates-n-mates Aberdeen.

“They find her friendly, approachable and helpful and they love the events she leads. She’s a vital part of the team.”

A rising star

Sarah’s selfless nature is recognised by the wider community too. She won a ‘Rising Star’ award from C-Change for her hard work for dates-n-mates. Ultimately, Sarah works tirelessly and selflessly to make sure every member is supported and feels included.

Sarah recently created a new event for adults with learning disabilities in Aberdeen through dates-n-mates.

She used her own ideas to develop an anti-stress sensory workshop which members really enjoyed and found useful. The idea came from her own experiences – she wanted to help others who may sometimes feel overwhelmed.

This shows Sarah’s caring nature and desire to help others who often experience some of the difficulties she is overcoming herself.

Sarah says, “I enjoy being focused on the members’ needs and finding out what kind of help and support they need. Putting a smile on their face is always fun!”

“Sarah is a fantastic role model,” says Louise McEwan, Project Development Coordinator at dates-n-mates Aberdeen.

“She really deserves some recognition as she does wonderful things for the dates-n-mates members to ensure everyone with learning disabilities and autism feels included.”


“I think it’s a highly creative idea that will benefit many people. I hope her confidence improves because she is taking great steps forward to make people’s lives better.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge


In the press

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