Overview

MGH Aspire offers a safe and caring environment where teens, with a high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or related social profile, learn to make positive social connections and transition successfully into young adulthood. Programs are designed to meet the adolescent's need to be part of a group while exploring their strengths and healthy independent living skills.

 

School Year Groups


Social Group: 

Social Group focuses on improving social competence, life skills, relationship and friendship development as well as stress management and self-awareness. The curriculum is participant focused; topics are tailored each semester and customized lessons and activities are developed by the facilitators to meet the unique needs of the group.

Objectives: This group’s objectives are to provide teens the opportunity to practice skills and see themselves as part of a community of learners.

Structure: The group is structured around interest-based activities, supportive discussions, social coaching, direct instruction, and short community outings.

This is the right group for you if: The participant is motivated to develop their skills and benefits from direct instruction with opportunities to practice skills with direct feedback.

Facilitator: Jessie Pappagianopolous, M.A., Assistant Program Manager of Teen/Adult Services

Location: Lexington
Ages: 14 - 18 years old
Group Size: 4 - 6 participants

Women’s Group:

Women’s Group provides a safe space to discuss the unique demands that young women face in daily life. The curriculum is participant driven; customized lessons and activities are developed by the facilitators to meet the unique needs of the group.

Objectives: This group’s objectives are to provide a safe space for participants to discuss the struggles and successes related to being a young woman. Participants and facilitators will work together to come up with solutions to challenges, set goals, and offer feedback to one another.

Structure: The group is primarily structured around group discussions that focus on topics such as navigating peer and romantic relationships and advocating for yourself (i.e., in the classroom, at a job, or within relationships). The group 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), and social competency skills.

This is the right group for you if: The participant is interesting in meeting other young women who may have similar experiences, and is motivated to discuss certain challenges and successes related to being a young woman or looking for strategies to navigate certain situations or challenges.  

Facilitator: Jessie Pappagianopolous, M.A., Assistant Program Manager of Teen/Adult Services

Location: Newton
Ages: 16+
Group Size: 4 - 6 participants

Guild Chronicles:

Guild Chronicles invites players to imagine themselves as heroes in an interactive story with fantasy themes. Guild Chronicles groups focus around playing a highly engaging roleplaying game designed by the group facilitator that has been enjoyed by 100 players and participants in the past five years and consistently ranks as one of our most popular groups.

Objectives: Participants must work together to overcome challenges while exploring situations, themes, and story elements that allow them to practice their developing social skills. Success in this highly engaging activity requires cooperation, collaboration and effective communication. This group also aims to increase participants’ intrinsic social motivation.

Structure: The group is structured around learning new skills while playing a highly engaging fantasy game. Teaching and discussions are built in, allowing for skills to generalize outside of the group setting. Feedback from both peers and facilitators provides in the moment learning and gameplay provides ample opportunities to practice developing skills.

This is the right group for you if: The participant is already interested in roleplaying games and fantasy genre (i.e., video games, books or movies) or if conventional “social skills” groups have not been engaging or effective.

Facilitator: Andrew Harris, M.Ed., Assistant Program Manager of Teen/Adult Services; groups may be co-facilitated by year-round Aspire staff based on group needs.

Location: Lexington & Newton
Teen Group: 14 - 18 years old
Adult Group: 18+
Group Size: 4 - 6 participants

Explorations:

Explorations is a Saturday program where teens participate in supported recreational and social activities while learning a variety of practical life skills in the community.

Objectives: This group’s objectives are to provide participants the opportunity to practice community living skills in a structured, supportive and positive environment. Participants practice skills related to money management, trip planning, using public transportation, peer negotiation, and time management.

Structure: The group is structured around collaboratively selecting and planning field trips within the community. Community trips take place throughout the metro Boston area and typically utilize public transportation. Direct instruction and activities to build social competency, stress management, and self-awareness are embedded into the curriculum, such that skills may generalize outside of the group setting. Popular outings include: Fanueil Hall, Prudential Center, movie theater, bowling, museums and restaurants.

This is the right group for you if: The participant is socially motivated to meet new people and is interested in going out into the community, learning how to navigate public transportation, and practicing money management and budgeting skills.

Facilitator: Aspire staff

Location: Charlestown, Lexington, Newton
Ages: 14 - 18 years old
Group Size Charlestown: 6 - 12 participants
Group Size Lexington: 6 - 12 participants
Group Size Newton: 15 - 20 participants 

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.

Objectives: This group’s objectives are to create a safe and welcoming space for participants to discuss their struggles and successes in college life. Participants and facilitators will work together to come up with solutions to challenges, set goals, and offer feedback to one another.

Structure: The group is primarily structured around group discussions that focus on topics such as connecting with peers on campus, navigating relationships with professors and peers, self-advocacy related to academic needs, dorm life, and other topics related to college life.

In addition to participation in group sessions, group members will have contact on individualized goals in between sessions. 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).

This is the right group for you if: You are currently enrolled in college and want to have a group to discuss the challenges and successes with, or if you are struggling with aspects of college life and looking for strategies to overcome these challenges.

Facilitator: Aspire staff

Location: Newton
Ages: 17+ and currently enrolled in college or university classes 
Group Size: 4 - 6 participants

Cooking Group:

The Cooking Group provides an opportunity to connect with peers around a shared interest, while collaboratively working together to create a meal that all can enjoy together.

Objectives: Through cooking, participants will develop independent living skills and practice collaborative, communication, and executive functioning skills within a supportive and fun environment.

Structure: The group is structured around learning an important independent skill, while engaging socially with peers. Participants will work together in the kitchen to plan and cook a meal from start to finish, and end by sharing the meal together. Direct instruction and discussions will be integrated into the sessions, such that participants may generalize the skills they are learning outside of the group setting.

This is the right group for you if: The participant is motivated to learn cooking skills, or benefits from learning social competencies in an activity-based group, rather than a “conventional” social skills group.

Facilitator: Jessie Pappagianopolous, M.A., Assistant Program Manager of Teen/Adult Services

Location: Lexington
Ages: 16+
Group Size: 4 - 6 participants

Summer

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.

 

Explorations:

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

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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