By Scott McLeod, PhD
Executive Director, Aspire
As the New Year approached, setting aside time for reflection was almost mandatory. There were many moments in December that prompted me to think about past, present and future as it relates to the MGH Aspire program. Recently, I met with an adult whom I have not seen since he attended camp approximately 20 years ago. His anti-authority mindset led to his resisting almost any suggestion, or worse, direction from any adult. Participating at camp was very difficult for him. School was even more difficult. What pleased me was that his memory of camp was that the staff did not exert their authority and insist on his participation in programming. They actually spent time, considerable time, trying to understand his perspective and understand him. He contrasted this with his school, social, and work experiences that made little effort at empathy and more focus on control. That his memory of us twenty years hence was that we, and his long-term psychiatrist, were the only people who took the effort and had the skill to understand how he truly felt and how he experienced the world. He was so grateful that somebody “got” him and didn’t try to change him.
Fast forward to today and we are serving hundreds of participants aged 4-40+ each year. We are running groups; consulting in schools; providing individual coaching of various types; and consulting with small and large businesses to support the long-term employment. It is immensely satisfying to see LinkedIn posts from employees who are working multiple years post their Aspire internship.
A key to this success is the thoughtful and caring staff that we have at Aspire. Their acceptance and embracing of persons who are on the spectrum or who call themselves neurodivergent is unquestioning. Our staff support success not only measured by employment or new relationships but also based on the desires and passions of the participants themselves.
As we roll through the New Year, our staff will continue to pledge our support for all our participants to reach the goals that are created by them and their families. To first “get” each person and work with them to accomplish their vision of success.
Happy New Year!