Posted By Janet Lawson, MFT on November 12, 2016
As we move into the last months of 2016, I’d like to give you all an in-depth, inside look at the Autistry Core Workshops. In 2017, we will launch the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program (ACAP) which will expand our services to include Education, Vocation, Life Skills, and Physical Fitness/Healthy Living. But everything we do, our philosophy, our approach, our interventions, is based on knowledge we have gained in nearly a decade of Autistry Core Workshops.
We call our approach, Project-Based Therapy. By tapping into the individual interests of our students and providing them the tools, both physical and emotional, to create projects embracing those interests, we give them the opportunity to find their passion and build strong, resilient, and unique identities.
This will be the first of four newsletters each featuring a current workshop day at Autistry – the students and their projects. Our workshops are composed of students of similar age and with similar communication abilities. We do not use the terms Low or High Functioning. We think more in terms of communicative ability. One of the lessons we have learned over the years is the absolute need to continuously increase vocabulary and to expand all forms of literacy – informational, cultural, visual, digital, technological, etc. We are firm advocates of lifelong learning fueled by the Maker Spirit.
Saturday Core Workshop
Many of our students begin on Saturdays in the early teen groups. Their projects reflect the exuberance and curiosity of these high-energy years!
It took a year of Saturdays for Nat to complete his stop-motion film, Alphabet Mission to Mars. All that patience is now paying off – the film was recently accepted into the Bluenose-Ability Film Festival in Nova Scotia and was featured at the Special Affects Film Festival last summer. Following his love for film and theater, Nat is now finishing a replica (exact reproduction, of course!) of the stage set from Matilda, the Musical. Driven by his passion, and with help from his mentor Allie, Nat found the inner strength and maturity to overcome technical obstacles to create a fabulous diorama.
Michael began to tinker with the Lego MindStorm set and found that, with a little effort and guidance from his mentor Bryant, he had the fine motor skills and the attention to detail needed to create robots! After several successful robot-building exercises Michael is now concentrating on learning the CAD skills necessary to run the ShopBot, a robotic router. He is working on a wall clock based on the Pokemon character, Aegislash.
Creating character clocks is a great way to leverage a special interest in order to learn new skills. Nick’s Sonic Clock is a super example. Using the sophisticated graphic design software, Nick created the files that control the ShopBot router, instructing it to cut or engrave the piece of wood that became Sonic. These are not easy tools to use and require patience, concentration, and decoding ability to master. Nick, with his mentor Matt, works on these essential skills while also expanding his verbal ability with a session of focused reading in each workshop.
Alex brought his passion for remote-controlled vehicles to Autistry and life around here has never been the same! His enthusiasm inspired several other students and together they have built a fleet of RC cars and trucks. One of Alex’s career goals is to drive a truck so we set up a driving simulator with a long-haul truck-driving program so he can practice his skills. Model-building is a great way to incorporate executive skill-building into a fun project. It requires planning, initiation, sequencing, and organization as well as self-regulation. And when all these skills come together the result is high self-esteem and well-earned pride – and a very cool GhostBusters Car!
It is well known that Lauren loves the ShopBot but she also loves the Raspberry Pi and the 3D printer. Her latest project, after the blue RC car and the M51 Super Sherman tank, is a Pix-E camera. This project is the perfect combination of Lauren’s loves. The Pix-E Camera “is a fully customizable 3D printed camera that takes short gifs using a Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Camera.” Lauren is having fun … and so is Dan!
Tank Girls! Yep, they’re a thing and Victoria is one of the best. She has finished two tank models – an M3 Stuart and an M4 Sherman. Both were complicated kits requiring hours of concentration and delicate fine motor skills. With mentor Nghi cheering her on, Victoria was victorious. And last week, she completed a small motorized car model entirely on her own. She has also mastered the fine art of RC car driving, keeping Alex and Lauren on their guard.
Gabi just recently joined the Saturday workshops, and like all students, she begins with a 9-week period of intensive 1:1 guidance. This high level of attention allows us to learn more about the student’s abilities and challenges. It also provides the time to develop trust and relationship with the staff. The goal is to build a strong foundation from which to move forward. Growth and change can be stressful and trust is essential. For her first project, Gabi is working closely with Gabrielle sewing a stuffed animal toy. Gabrielle will walk her through all the aspects of the project. For her next project, Gabi will make a small patchwork quilt and practice independently the many skills she was introduced to in the stuffed toy project.
Next week we will feature the students and projects of the Sunday Autistry Core Workshop.
Please help us continue the Core Workshops and launch the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program with a donation to our 2016 Gear-End Fundraiser. Follow the link to download, print, and send the donation form. Be sure to include the text for your custom engraved gear! You can also donate online through our Donations Page.
Janet, Dan, Sara, Allie, Gabrielle, Matt, Nghi, Bryant, and James