Ian goes to college part 2 – His first day

| August 26, 2014

Ian4-8-12Ian is bravely trying out a college class at College of Marin. While it is not a community college in San Francisco complete with dorms, (one of Ian’s current dreams), it is a huge step towards the independent adult life that he is trying to build for himself and that his parents are working to support with all of their hearts. In true Dan and Janet fashion, when they looked at the current programs to support students with disabilities at the local community college and found them lacking, they set out to build something better.  

002Thus I am attending the class with Ian, not only to support him as a student, but to investigate the nature of supporting ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) individuals at the college level. In addition to thinking about balancing Ian’s needs with those of his teacher and classmates, I am going to be doing my best to think about how this support could be scaled up to meet the needs of other ASD students.

Ian with HarpOne of the joys and challenges of working with ASD individuals is the incredible diversity of their skills, talents and needs. During our first day of class, I noticed that Ian’s tendency is to tune out the intense verbal language of the lecture component of the class. While doing this, he is still working hard to stay regulated and to present an outward impression of paying attention. He is quiet and still at his desk and looks toward the teacher as she talks. Asking him questions, prompting him to write down essential concepts and reminding him to pay attention were strategies I tried to increase his level of attendance to the material being presented. I am helped in these efforts by the nature of the class, a drama class which teaches fundamental acting skills. As such, the class is taught by a woman who has a background in acting and who conducts her class in an engaging manor. High levels of affect naturally interest Ian, and prompt him to attend to the material. Another helpful element of the class is that the students tend to only spend small chunks of time on lecture material before being called to their feet and asked to put principles into active practice.

IanJoyDuring the circle exercises of the first day, passing names and gestures around a circle, first methodically and then in a random pattern, Ian displayed a very high level of engagement. He not only “got” the games, he was good at them. Over the course of these exercises, I saw the students’ perception of Ian change. Their attitude shifted from one of curiosity to one of interest, and he was chosen often by his peers to participate. He was good at remembering the names of his peers and who had or had not been already chosen. It was gratifying to see Ian engaging and succeeding. Our only interaction during this period was when he would catch my eye from across the room and I would give him a smile or thumbs-up. This first day showed me three different levels of engagement and motivation that Ian currently possesses. There was a language-based lecture that he needed a high level of support to gain benefit from, a short film sequence and some short monologue performances that Ian watched intently and was able to comment on with very little scaffolding/prompting, and there were the active exercises, which he was able to attend to and participate in without support.

Ian and SaraThe drama exercises can be viewed as intense focused social interactions that follow distinct sets of rules. With these rules in place, Ian was able to have prolonged interactions with his peers, both one-on-one and as a group. This component of the class is important, challenging, and highly motivating for Ian. He is a member of an ensemble. He is having to stretch himself to fulfill his obligation to the ensemble, and some of his peers may be having to stretch their perception of disability in order to fulfill their obligations to him. I find this to be incredibly healthy stretching for all parties.


Autistry Newsletter – August 9, 2014

| August 9, 2014

Either summers are getting shorter or time is passing faster but August’s arrival caught me by surprise. Or perhaps it’s just that the old adage “Time flies when you’re having fun” is true. In which case, after the amazing fun of the Autistry Summer Camps it is a wonder that we aren’t in August 2015!

city explorers
We kicked off the summer with City Explorers Camps 1 and 2 led by Ashley Gries. The campers hiked the Marin headlands, took the ferry to San Francisco, and experienced the Exploratorium, the Aquarium by the Bay, Fort Point and other cool local locations. They revisited familiar places and discovered new ones.


The Letterboxing Camp led by Sara Gardner took the students in search of hidden treasures and cached messages. Letterboxing combines several skills – navigation, art, and puzzle solving. Letterboxing hobbyists hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places. Our campers traveled the length and breadth of Marin County from Heart’s Desire Beach to China Camp looking for these treasure troves. They created unique stamps of their own and travel journals and had a fabulous time.


Brook Leone was the head chef of Cooking Camps 1 and 2. Brook and her sous-chefs, Ashley Gries, Dayna Camden and Danny Waite kept the campers busy with shopping, cooking and, of course, eating! They also did blind-folded taste tests, learned kitchen safety, customized chef hats, made a recipe book, and, of course, did the dishes. And, at the end of each week they not only made yummy snacks but they also fixed a three course meal for the Thursday Autistry Workshop students – a sit-down meal for 22 people! And it was very tasty.

Next week Sara Gardner returns with a very special camp – The Hero’s Journey. Campers will explore their animal spirits, create unique shields, and hike to one of Marin’s most beautiful waterfalls. You can follow their journey on our Facebook Page.

The staff and students of Autistry are gearing up for our 3rd Annual Fundraising Faire. This year the theme is Eco-Tech: Using our Powers for Good! On display will be student projects like a lightweight teardrop trailer, a “green” demonstration shed, models of ecologically savvy small-footprint houses, and more.

The Faire benefits the Autistry Opportunity Fund, which allows Autistry to offer sliding-scale fees and scholarships to low- and moderate-income individuals and families who would not otherwise be able to access our innovative programs. There are several ways you can help us make this the best faire yet:

Partner with Autistry by becoming an Event Sponsor – check out the custom remote control cars we build for our Event Sponsors – not to mention the VIP dinner!

Or, be a Booth Sponsor and put your name on one of the many cool carnival booths or on the crash wall of the racetrack.

Or, donate items to the Autistry Silent Auction Handmade crafts, wines, items to include in baskets (Spa basket, date night, culinary delights, etc). We are looking for fun, exciting, exquisite or just plain cool items!

Thank you for supporting Autistry Studios!

Janet, Dan, Sarah, Sara, Amelia, Ashley, Brook, Dayna, Allison, Danny, and Katia