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At MGH Aspire, adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related social profile learn valuable independent living skills and a variety of ways to develop positive social connections.
Aspire's programs for adults, with a high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or related social profile, focus on exploring meaningful work opportunities, transitioning to college, developing relationships and accessing resources for living independently. Programs focus on the development of self-awareness, improve social competence by teaching ways of thinking and being social, executive function, and life skills in a supportive and structured setting. Aspire adult programs mostly run through the academic year. College Boot Camp runs during the Summer on a college campus, and the Internship has three cycles - Spring, Summer and Fall.
Social Groups focus on social skills and improving social competence by teaching ways of thinking and being social, life skills, relationship and friendship development as well as stress management and self-awareness. The group’s objectives are to give adults the opportunity to practice skills and to see themselves as part of a community of learners. The group is structured around interest-based activities, supportive discussions, social coaching, direct instruction, and community outings.
The Women’s Group is a safe space to discuss the unique demands that young women face in daily life. Examples of discussion topics include: navigating peer and romantic relationships, advocating for yourself in the classroom or on the job and in your relationships. We will also discuss ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and developing coping skills to use in the real world. Examples include self-advocacy skills (e.g., learning about your own unique needs and how to get what you need and want from relationships, school, and/or work), stress management skills (e.g., relaxation and self-care skills), and social competency skills (e.g., ways to effectively communicate with others at home, work, and/or school). A particular focus will be placed on how to utilize these skills outside of group as well.
Board Games provide opportunities to engage with peers around a shared interest, have positive social experiences, and develop relationships. In this group the participants will have options to play board games such as Settlers of Catan or Pandemic. Through playing the games, participants will practice perspective taking, communication and collaborations skills. Also, participants will be engaged in reflection about skills that help improve social competency and build relationships with peers.
In the Outings Group, young adults plan and go on group trips and participate in recreational activities throughout the metro Boston area. Together as a group, members choose their excursions and activities and are challenged to go on novel outings. Activities are tailored to the interests of the group. Examples could include: bowling, watching a university sporting event, hiking, visiting a comic store, or having dinner in Harvard Square. The program provides shared experiences so that participants can develop social connections while increasing self-awareness. Practicing stress management skills in the community is another component of this program. Participants will not only expand skills for connecting with others and for setting up activities but will also explore ways to continue their relationships outside of the scheduled outings.
College Mentorship is a program designed to help college student’s transition and adjust to college/university life throughout the academic year. The program aims to help college students learn various social and executive functioning skills needed to thrive in college both academically and socially. College staff and student mentors are trained by Aspire staff to work with mentees on their college campuses to use their campus resources effectively and appropriately while gaining independence and self-advocacy skills.
College Social Group:
The College Social Group is a safe space to discuss the unique social challenges and opportunities for neurodiverse students enrolled part or full time in a local college or university. Various topics will be explored and discussed including connecting with peers and professors in the classroom, joining and/or starting campus organizations or clubs, attending social events on and off campus, and engaging in self-advocacy to communicate needs to professors, peers, and university staff members. In addition to participation in group sessions, group members will also take part in a brief bi-weekly phone call or contact through a technology platform. The purpose of this individual coaching is to provide an opportunity to foster generalization of social skills outside of the session in the college/university setting (e.g., to help follow-through with initiation of a social event on campus; trouble shoot self-advocacy efforts with a professor).
The Aspire Internship Program is designed to help adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related profile navigate the various aspects of the work environment while gaining important on-the-job skills. Key program features include our Aspire career counselors and weekly seminars designed to optimize the internship experience.
College Boot Camp:
College Boot Camp helps college bound high school seniors and young adults transition into college. In this one-week summer program, participants learn about campus life, how to connect with peers, how to decode a syllabus, and access resources. This program will help to enhance participants’ self-advocacy, time management, organizational skills and awareness of learning and communication styles. Participants learn about the differences between the structure, as well as the academic and social expectations, of high school and college.
Now in two locations - Charlestown and Newton!
Explorations is a week-day program where teens, ages 14-19, participate in supported recreational and social activities while learning a variety of practical life skills in the community. Topics include: money management, trip planning, using public transportation, peer negotiation, and time management. Participants are encouraged to balance their needs with those of the group. Community trips take place throughout the metro Boston area (e.g. Faneuil Hall, Prudential Center, movie theatre, bowling, museums and restaurants) and typically utilize public transportation.
Transitions is a program that offers youth ages 16-22 opportunities to take part in experiences and practice skills that help with the transition to work and college environments. Participants are placed at a volunteer working site two days per week and receive job-coaching, career skill training, and college exploration, and engage in team-building experiences.
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