Autistry Newsletter – September 11, 2018

| September 11, 2018

We are well into the new school semester and I still haven’t done a summer wrap-up newsletter. Let’s fix that!

In June we launched our first Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program (ACAP) Summer Session. It was five days a week of exercise, vocational training, college prep, and fun. The program tripled in size the first week, reaching our goal of 12 students a full 6 months earlier than planned. All of the summer ACAP students have continued with us into the fall semester.

ACAP Excursion to Jack London State Park


Lots of walking …

Each week began with a trip to the Dominican University Conlan Center for a workout session and/or a swim in the pool. The trip itself was exercise and travel training. Students walked from the studio to the San Rafael Transit Center and took the bus to the gym. Many lessons learned along the way: Do not walk along busy streets wearing ear plugs and playing games on your iPhone. Yes, you need either current college ID, ticket, or an active Clipper Card to ride the Marin Transit bus. No, the bus does not wait for you if you are late to the bus stop.

Ian and Teodros – Gym Buddies!

At the gym the students, under the direction of Autistry mentors and DU graduate OT interns, created individualized workout plans and paired up to be Gym Buddies. And there was at least one pool session a week where the students could improve their swimming skills and review water safety. The Conlan also provided a great basketball court, outdoor soccer fields, and a running track – we made use of them all.

Original Bamboo Equine Themed Coasters

Back at the studio, we honed our vocational skills with several different projects. Matt Glenwright, Autistry Program Director for Vocational Training, taught shop skills using the laser cutter, ShopBot, bandsaw, and other woodworking tools. Students also used graphic and CAD software to create unique designs. Lots of measuring, figuring, and cutting went on this summer. We were happy to donate three sets of original equine-themed bamboo coasters to a raffle supporting Square Peg Foundation. And, we delivered the Art Boxes to Oak Hill School.

Delivering Art Boxes to Oak Hill School


Yummy – tangy tastes!

Wednesday’s Cooking with Gabrielle was a huge hit. Each week featured a student’s favorite family recipe allowing us to enjoy new tastes: chana masala, homemade pesto, Mason Family cranberry sauce, creamy vegan one-pot pasta, and many more tasty dishes. They also experimented with exotic spices and strange, tongue-tickling textures.

Lots of studying …

In the spirit of keeping our brains active and preparing for fall college classes we spent many hours doing academic basics: reading writing, and arithmetic. Gabrielle and Sara prepared special learning packets for each of the students to brush up on Math and English skills. When classes started in late August the Autistry students were ready.

And, of course, there were the fabulous Friday excursions with Sara Gardner. Just a few of the places they visited: San Francisco Exploratorium, Point Reyes National Seashore, Japanese Tea Garden, Square Peg Foundation horse farm, SF zoo, and Jack London State Park. These excursion are not only fun but also practice travel skills and offer the opportunity to explore our community.

ACAP Excursion to the Bay Model in Sausalito


Peek-a-Boo Under the Sea: multi-media piece by Danielle

The Core Build Stuff Workshops remain the heart of Autistry. In these weekly 4-hour workshops amazing projects are being created. This summer Edward finished his plushie character, Dashi from Octonauts. He is now working on a very cool puppet. Danielle completed her award-winning multi-media piece, Peek-a-Boo – Under the Sea, several animated films are underway, and many 3D printed projects happened.

Yoda – carved on ShopBot with laser cut paper overlay

This fall we celebrate 10 Years of Autistry Build Stuff Workshops! We offered our first workshop in September 2008 and we have added new workshops and new services every year. Please consider a donation to help us continue to expand Autistry for another 10 years!

Autistry Newsletter – June 16, 2018

| June 16, 2018

Summer is here! Before I tell you about the great summer program at Autistry I want to celebrate and congratulate our students who have successfully found employment. This is a tough job market where even entry level positions often require college degrees. Though Autistry does not formally provide job placement we have found that good work habits lead to good jobs. Both the Core Workshops and the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program focus on essential workplace skills – critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication, self-regulation, initiative, follow-through, basic academic skills, and teamwork.

Alan, Mike, and Ian G. are all on staff next door at Renew Computers. They will greet you when you come in, help unload your recyclable goods, build you a new computer, and do it all with a smile. Other Autistry students test and clean keyboards and mice helping to keep electronic devices in working order and out of the landfill. We are proud of our Autistry workers and our partnership with Michael Reynolds and Renew Computers.

Sprouts Farmers Market has welcomed three Autistry students onto their staff: Steven, Chris, and Sawyer (not pictured). You’ll find Steven at the check-out counter ringing up your purchases. Sawyer is working in the deli section and Chris is everywhere – stocking shelves, cleaning up, and helping customers take their groceries to the car. Sprouts is a short walk from Autistry so we like to shop and check in on our friends.


Congratulations to Danny!
He landed two summer positions in local restaurants. Danny is currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at Santa Rosa Junior College. Restaurant positions are very competitive but Danny persevered sending out several rounds of applications, doing interviews, and kitchen ‘try-outs’. He will be working two part-time jobs as an intern line cook gaining crucial experience in his chosen career. Bon Appetit!

And Corey – our media star! For years Corey has dreamed of working on Hollywood movies and this year he finally got his foot in the door as an extra on several productions filmed locally. You can see him in 13 Reasons Why, The OA, and A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities. Years ago, I was an extra in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. This seems like an easy job but I can tell you it is very demanding. Long hours of boredom interspersed with high-energy activity. Focus, self-regulation, following complex directions, and trying to be social when you are exhausted are all important skills for this job. Corey continues to get call backs from production companies and that shows he has mastered these skills. And he just had a very good 3-month job review from P-Town Books. Bravo Corey!

Autistry Summer Programs: ACAP (Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program) and the Core Workshops are going full force this summer. With college classes on summer break the ACAP curriculum has expanded to include twice weekly workouts at the Conlan Center of Dominican University. With the help of four DU Occupational Therapy Level II interns, we are creating individualized fitness programs for each student.

Matt has developed a summer vocational program to produce the art boxes, snowflake ornaments, and iPad screen guards so the workshop is humming. Gabrielle is working with the students to create menus based on student family favorite and traditional dishes for the Wednesday Cooking Class. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we stop learning – throughout the week we will have Academic Review Sessions to prepare for college courses in the Fall.

And, it wouldn’t be ACAP without Sara’s Excursion Fridays! They have already gone kayaking, hiking, and to the theater to see Incredibles 2!

The Core Workshop is busy with new projects and lots of new materials. Dan has gone crazy purchasing Arduino micro-controllers and electronic components to make all sorts of cool gadgets. And the trains are back! We’re adding home-made DCC (digital command control) systems to remotely control the trains as they speed along the tracks and will be experimenting with dead-rail (battery powered) systems. We are working on the layout adding new buildings and rebuilding the tunnels. The Friday College Support group has been developing tabletop games and some students are working on writing and 3D design projects. Lots of fun!

Autistry Newsletter April 18, 2018

| April 20, 2018

Ian’s Reading Circle

April is Autism Acceptance Month. I’m not sure what that means as I can’t imagine not accepting autism as a way of being, a way of experiencing the world. But I also know that many individuals need help along the way. Please take some time this month (and every month) to thank the schools, services, and programs that work hard all year long to help autistic children, teens, and adults become independent and accomplish great things. And just for fun, here is a photo of Ian recreating the Marindale Early Intervention Autism Class reading circle for his special students.

Now that you’re smiling: Help us meet a $7,500 challenge from the Miranda Lux Foundation. To unlock this $7,500 grant, we need to raise $7,500 to match. Your donations will be matched dollar for dollar. The Miranda Lux grant supports our Make and Share Vocational Training Project. This unique project, teaches woodworking, computer-aided design (CAD), and computer-aided light manufacturing (CAM) by creating products to donate to our community. Production is well underway on two projects:

Screen guard designed by Dan Phillips, made at Autistry

Custom iPad Screen Guards: In collaboration with the Tech Resource Center Marin, a program of the Marin County Office of Education, we are designing and producing acrylic screen guards for use with touch screen monitors. These screen guards are specifically designed to assist physically challenged individuals when using iPads and other touch activated devices.
 


Art Boxes on the ShopBot


Art Boxes: These are assembled and ready-to-decorate wooden boxes that can be used by school and nonprofit art programs to create dioramas. Students learn to measure, cut, and assemble projects. They learn to use the laser cutter and the ShopBot, a robotic cutting tool.

The boxes are 8″ x 11″ x 4.5″ The back is MDF which is very good to paint on. The sides are 1/2″ plywood. They include a separate piece of MDF 7″ x 10″ which can be painted separately and then glued inside the box after painting. Our first order will be delivered to Oak Hill School this summer!

ACAP students study together

For our ACAP students the spring semester is quickly drawing to a close and the ACAP students are busy preparing for finals and finishing up their assignments. We have all learned a lot this semester, not just the coursework but also the finer points helping our students navigate college.

Throughout the year, College of Marin Student Accessibility Service (SAS) has been a fabulous partner. Stormy Miller, Director of SAS and her team have helped us find accommodations that work for our students and provided a supportive and accepting environment that fosters intellectual growth and independence. This semester we have students in two different math classes, a C++ programming class, and a music class. Four of our students are working towards their AA degrees.

Besides going to school our ACAP students have been working on life skills like grocery shopping and cooking. On the Friday excursions they have visited the Asian Art Museum, the Charles Schultz ‘Peanuts’ Museum, the Bay Model in Sausalito, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and many other cool places. They have also hiked through Samuel P. Taylor Park, Marin Headlands and Point Reyes. Excursion Fridays with Sara are a hit at Autistry!

Our students in the Core Workshop Program have been busy creating amazing projects. Steven completed the stop motion animation short, Kirby vs The Dark Mattarmy and is now working on a new narrative film.

Venom


Avery sculpted the character Venom and is working on a scenic diorama where Venom can live and wreak havoc.

Good Cat, Frank


Nat’s picture book, Good Cat, Frank will be available soon on Amazon.

Enterprise Clock


Jonathan’s Enterprise Clock is ready for take-off.

Lots of other cool stuff keeping the3D printer, laser cutter and ShopBot busy!

Mark your calendars for Saturday April 28 – it’s time for our sixth Autistry Scientists & Artists Party! We have an amazing lineup of presenters this year. A celebrated film visual/special effects artist, an MIT Media Lab inventor, a virtual reality and hologram pro, and a gene-splicer from the Buck Institute! Wow, just Wow. And, Ken Pontac returns to emcee with his special blend of dark humor and deep kindness. Did I mention that there will be karaoke? There will be karaoke! Tickets available online!

A final reminder, please consider a donation to Autistry to help match the $7,500 pledged by the Miranda Lux Foundation. To unlock this $7,500 grant we need to raise $7,500 to match. Your donations will be matched dollar for dollar. Donations can be made online.

Autistry Newsletter – December 2017

| December 26, 2017

2017 – what a fabulous year! Last December I wrote that we were “ready to roll up our sleeves and take Autistry to the next level”. I am happy to report that we did just that. We received our Community Care License, became vendorized by the Golden Gate Regional Center, launched the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program (ACAP), became authorized to award Continuing Education credits, launched the Autistry Professional Development Program with our first seminar, Working with the Autistic Client, and welcomed several new students to the Autistry Core Workshop Program. In 2017, we created a solid foundation and we are now rolling our sleeves up even higher to expand these programs and add more activities in 2018.

Launch of ACAP: We have long envisioned a multi-day program to support transitioning individuals – not just those young adults going from high school to post high school, but also those transitioning from inactivity to engagement, from loss of job to finding one’s way again, and from isolation to community. Working closely with our Autistry students and families we have created a program that embraces and supports life-long learning, vocational readiness, healthy living, and cultural/social awareness. This is easy to conceptualize but a bit more difficult to materialize. It took months of scheduling, organizing, and planning but the reward – a successful first semester!

How does ACAP work? We organize our week around the college course schedule. Most students take at least one college course and usually attend class twice a week. Autistry mentors help students navigate public transportation to get to class, will attend class with them when needed, and provide homework help at College of Marin Learning Labs and at Autistry.

On days of no classes (and if there is no homework to be done!), students work on designated Autistry projects. These projects are each designed to teach specific skills and to create products that are useful for the community. Currently we have 4 major lines of production happening:

1. Art Boxes: These can be used for creating dioramas. Matt teaches the students how to measure, cut, and assemble the wooden boxes. They also learn to use the laser cutter and the ShopBot.
The art boxes will be donated to local art programs.
Our first customers are Oak Hill School, Cedars of Marin, and The Helix School.

2. Screen Guards: At the request of Dan Phillips of the Technology Resource Center of Marin, we are making acrylic keyboard guards that fit over an iPad to help guide one’s fingers to the correct spot on a touch screen. With our unique shop facility and our talented workers in mind, we are exploring other cool projects to create for the TRC.

3. Art Smocks: Gabrielle and Chloe have designed a versatile smock for protecting one’s clothes while working with paints and other messy mediums. The basic prototype can be made in 3 different sizes with various pocket options. This project teaches our students how to create and adjust a pattern as well as machine and hand-sewing. The smocks will be donated to schools and nonprofit organizations.

4. Original Ornaments: Allie and several students have designed fabulous animal-themed ornaments – like this octopus snowflake. We will make them in various materials – wood, acrylic, card stock, heavy fabric.
The students learn basic design concepts, CAD drawing skills using several different professional programs, and how to use the laser cutter. These we may sell online or at Farmer’s Markets as a way to experience the world of commerce.

We also offer the very popular Cooking with Gabrielle. She teaches nutrition and healthy eating along with basic cooking skills. The students have made some very yummy meals – Persian Shish Kabobs, Turkey Pot Pie, Chicken Enchiladas, and Empanadas.
And of course there are the scrumptious cakes, cookies, biscuits, pies, and other tasty sweets.

Asian Art visitTo top off the week, we have Excursion Fridays with Sara. Each week the ACAP students explore the Bay Area. Trips have included the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, a hike through Samuel P. Taylor Park, visit to the Bay Model in Sausalito, a peer-guided tour of UC Berkeley, and a tour of the Marin Civic Center with Supervisor Damon Connolly. The students learn how to utilize public transportation to get out and about in their community.

As you can tell there are lots of moving parts to this complex program but notes like this one from the Dinkelspiel family make all the planning worth the effort:

Autistry Studios has been such a vital and wonderful part of our lives, providing our autistic son, Chris with critical help and guidance as he makes his transition into adulthood. The staff has worked with Chris extensively as he navigates his way through classes at the College of Marin, and in teaching him the life skills he will need to live independently. Chris loves Autistry Studios, the friends that he has made there, the many skills he has learned, and the accomplishments he has achieved. We are forever grateful for what Autistry Studios has done for Chris and for our family, and we look forward to continuing to work with Autistry Studios for many years to come. Thank you!”

CORE Workshop Program: ACAP may have taken much of our energy last year but we never lost focus on the heart of Autistry which is the Core Workshop Program. The Core is a therapeutic Maker/STEAM program where students ranging in age from 13 – 55 create awesome projects of their own choosing and along the way gain fundamental and essential knowledge about themselves.

Some students come to the Core in their early teens, stay with us through high school, through college, and continue to attend workshops as they establish careers. Our younger students often discover that, even though they like to test them, firm boundaries keep one physically and emotionally safe. And, within that safe zone they can settle down and build projects they have been dreaming of for years.

This year we added new electronic capabilities and created several new projects on the 3D printer. Having the right tools and equipment on hand is what makes it possible for students to build such a wide variety of projects. We have 2 new 3D printers on order, the second laser cutter will come online soon, several new work benches have been built during this holiday week, and boxes of Arduino and Raspberry Pi parts keep arriving.

The goal at Autistry, for both the ACAP and the Core Program is to help individuals become as independent as they are capable of being.

Becoming independent is not a passive process. It takes courage and an inner fortitude to challenge oneself to learn a new skill, break an old habit, or create a dream.

Your support helps us purchase great tools and state-of-the-art equipment, and attract smart, talented staff – the key ingredients to Autistry’s success. There’s still time for that End-of-Year Donation!

The Autistry Team wishes you all a fabulous new year!

Autistry Newsletter – August 7, 2017

| August 7, 2017

With schools starting earlier and earlier, summers are getting shorter and shorter. And this one was certainly fast and furious. But we managed many new projects, exciting excursions, and the launch of two new programs.

The Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program (ACAP) began this summer. ACAP is comprised of four interwoven programs: Education, Vocation, Life Skills, and Physical Fitness. Together these programs provide a comprehensive learning experience that supports growth, maturation, and individuation. ACAP is designed as a 5-day/week program and is funded by the Golden Gate Regional Center. Clients may attend fewer days as fits their schedules. It may be that a client has an internship or employment 2-3 days a week and wants to supplement with 2 or 3 days at Autistry. The program is flexible to support the needs of the individual. ACAP launched in July supporting students attending the College of Marin Summer Bridge course. Students learned to use public transportation and returned to Autistry to do homework.

The Autistry staff is just as excited about ACAP as the students. Students learn to Cook with Gabrielle (and who doesn’t want to cook with Gabrielle Haggett-Molina!). She has designed a nutritious, fun, and very yummy curriculum. Skills include meal planning, shopping, kitchen tool safety, hygiene, healthy nutrition, and, the ever-important kitchen clean up.

Matt Glenwright is leading the way with an excursion program to Explore and Experience the Bay Area. He combines travel training using public transportation (Golden Gate Transit, Marin Transit, BART, and soon the SMART train) with exciting adventures: kayaking, hikes in the redwoods, rock concerts, and much more.

To encourage, support, and measure the acquisition of workplace skills, Allison Mages is helping create the Autistry Skills Certification Program. We offer certification in ShopBot, Laser Cutter, Soldering, Sewing, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, and many others. We hope to eventually recognize all micro-competencies our students achieve at Autistry. These certificates also give our students tangible experience to include on a resume.

More information about the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program is available: ACAP Info Packet

We have also added the Autistry Professional Development Program to our list of services. Our leadership team, Janet Lawson, CEO, Dan Swearingen, COO and Sara Gardner, Clinical Director have years (decades?) of experience working with autistic teens and adults. Through seminars, workshops, study groups, and presentations we will share our knowledge and experience with professionals and families.

Our next professional development seminar is: Working with the Autistic Client. Saturday, September 16, 9am to 4pm. CE credits for psychologists, social workers, counselors and nurses are available. More information available on the seminar page.

As this summer comes to a close we are looking forward to a busy, productive, and fun fall!

Autistry Newsletter March 15, 2017

| March 15, 2017

It’s March and the madness at Autistry is all about projects and preparing for the return of the much loved Autistry Scientists & Artists Party. For more details and to purchase tickets (buying tickets online in advance helps us plan the food and drink!) go to: AutistrySAparty.brownpapertickets.com

AandS 5

Building stuff. Why do we do projects at Autistry? Because they’re fun and they’re cool. YES. But they are also amazing teaching tools. The process of creating a project involves more than one particular skill. It requires planning, experimentation, execution, and a great degree of self-regulation as things rarely turn out as initially envisioned. Here are just a few of the many types of projects we do at Autistry.

Woodworking: Over the years the students have created some amazing projects using the large array of power and hand tools at the studio. We often joke that Autistics with Power Tools should be our motto. But there is far more to working with wood than attacking a piece of lumber with a skill saw. Plans need to be drawn, materials purchased, and there is the continual need to measure and remeasure. When students first come to Autistry most cannot use a ruler. But they soon learn that a mis-measured board can ruin a dollhouse!

woodworking

Model Building: We often use model kits as “B” projects, the thing you do while glue is drying on your “A” project or the 3D printer is slowly spewing out your masterpiece. Students have built tanks, airplanes, and cars and this seemingly simple activity is actually filled with learning opportunities. Putting together a kit requires reading, understanding, and following directions. And, in the case of the very popular remote control kits, models can also help with fine and gross motor skills. Not to mention learning how to drive.

models

Filmmaking: One of our golden rules at Autistry (right behind THE FINGERS NEVER LEAVE THE HANDS) is NO STORYBOARD/NO CAMERA. A Hollywood director once told me that actual filming is like cutting sausage – the real work is making the sausage. So, before the first shot is taken our students write a treatment and create a storyboard. This not only exercises executive functioning skills (planning, organization, prioritizing, etc.) but the storyboard serves as a roadmap and a means of communicating your fabulous ideas with others. Because filmmaking is a team sport.

filmmaking

Sewing: This is a sadly overlooked art form and a very practical skill. Creating a quilt, piece of clothing, or the cover for a sword requires all the steps used in woodworking, model building, and filmmaking. The project begins with an idea that needs to be developed into a workable plan. Materials need to be purchased. Skills need to be learned. And, as is true for all projects, adjustments need to be made. Resiliency and problem-solving are key when creating any project and every experienced sewer knows how to use the seam-ripper.

sewing

These are just four types of projects. We also build computers, write computer programs, make dioramas, use the 3D printers to make our own cameras, cook yummy food, and create boardgames. The possibilities are endless as are the creative ideas flowing from our students.

Autistry Newsletter – December 26, 2016

| December 26, 2016

CLICK here for the March 2017 Newsletter!

In this strange lull between the Xmas holiday and New Year’s Day, we usually drift in nostalgia and reminisce about the past year’s activities and achievements. And though there have been many wonderful accomplishments this year, we find ourselves looking forward to 2017. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and take Autistry to the next level – opening the Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program, launching creative social enterprises, and creating a Mentor Training Program for professionals and families.

KBLX CaresLast week, Dan, Steven, and Janet were interviewed by radio host Sterling James for her KBLX Cares program. We were very impressed with Steven who insisted he was not articulate enough to be on the radio – and yet he spoke with eloquence and confidence. Steven graduated last year from Sonoma State University with a degree in Applied Mathematics. He is bright, funny, creative, and autistic. Listen for yourself!

In November, we wrote about the Saturday and Sunday Core Workshops. These workshops are for teenagers and are held on the weekend to not interfere with middle and high school schedules. The Thursday and Friday Core Workshops are for adults. Our adult students range in age from 19 to 50+. Their verbal ability ranges from virtually nonverbal to oh-my-God-please-be-quiet! How do we accommodate such a wide range of interests and abilities? By addressing each individual’s needs and connecting with each individual’s interests. We challenge our students to expand their capabilities and we challenge ourselves to be open to learning new skills with our students.

coral reefThe range of projects is a reflection of the range of interests. Danielle is creating mixed media pieces. She has learned to use the laser cutter to create complex shapes and she also incorporated her love of double spiral lanyards. The lanyards became a coral reef and the perfect environment for a clown fish.

 

ComicLIfeSeveral of our students are expanding their storytelling ability with ComicLife. This simple-to-use software program allows them to create visual narratives and add short descriptions and dialogue.

Creating comics gives those with limited verbal ability the opportunity to share their stories. It also encourages the development of vocabulary, perspective-taking, and organization. Over time these stories become more and more complex and lead to stop-motion animation.

nat and allieStop-motion is a wonderful way to experience drama. The process can be tedious but the rewards are great. Over the years students have created several films incorporating stop-motion elements or entirely done as stop-motion pieces: Screaming Eggs, Ian and Reed Juggle a Star, Fish Hook, Thomas the Tank Engine (test), and Alphabet Mission to Mars!

We currently have a GoFundMe campaign raising funds to upgrade our animation tools: www.GoFundMe.com/autistry

006Some of our students are already fine writers. On Friday, Gabrielle Haggett-Molina facilitates the Autistry World group. The Autistry World Group is the creation of Sara Gardner, LMFT our Clinical Director. She felt that the inner-worlds of our students needed an outlet and peer support. Each member of this group is creating a unique imaginary world. Their projects can be novels, board games, video games, graphic novels, or even blogs. They share their works-in-progress with each other in group and also online throughout the week.

Several of our adult students are taking college courses and we will be expanding our college support services in 2017. One of the most important lessons we have learned over these last 8.5 years is that everyone, autistics included, when given the opportunity will continue to grow and learn throughout their lives. At Autistry we are firm believers in lifelong learning.

Father and Son2Our adult students (and our teens!) need employment experience. We are reaching out to the community to find appropriate opportunities but we also realize the need for creating those opportunities. Dan recently posted a blog about social enterprises and how they can offer hands-on experience to autistic individuals. In 2017 we will launch a couple of light-manufacturing social enterprises. These will offer experience designing, building, and marketing products to the public.

Wow – there is a lot of work ahead
. Please consider a donation to help us fulfill our goals and enrich and empower the autistic community. More information is available on our Donation page.

We look forward to connecting with you all in 2017!

Janet, Dan, Sara, Allison, Gabrielle, Matt, Nghi, Bryant, and James

Autistry Newsletter – November #2: Sunday

| November 25, 2016

Sunday LARP3
PokemonGo TeamSundays are special at Autistry. The workshop combines older teenagers, generally juniors or seniors in high school, with some of our college age students (Friday guys). When not studying for their college classes, the older students help the others with their projects and often join in LARP (Live Action Role Play) sword fights. They are also active members of the Autistry Sunday Pokemon Go pack.

When we started Autistry we focused on these transition years – late high school age to mid-20 year olds. This is a difficult time for anyone, on the spectrum or off the spectrum. These are years of self-discovery and exploration but also years filled with fear and self-doubt. How to be independent in a world where expectations are unclear, relationships are hopelessly nuanced, and everyone else seems to know what they want and where to get it. Autistic youth often feel left behind.

celebrate
The needs of our Sunday Workshop students are driving the design of the soon to launch Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program (APAC).

For years we have offered a College Support Workshop, helped high school students with science projects, prepared students for the driving permit test, and celebrated birthdays, graduations, new jobs, and all sorts of special moments.

APAC will extend that support to include physical fitness, vocation, and life skills training. So, thank you Sunday guys for your inspiration!

A sneak peek at some of the Sunday Workshop projects:

Chris diorama in processChris is creating a diorama world for the awesome clay Solid Snake figure he made last month. The scene is a location from the Metal Gear Solid games called Shadow Moses Island. Chris has just built the mountains using cardboard strips draped with red rosin paper and painted with white glue. The final steps will be to cover the surface with Clay Shay, paint, and add details.

portal gunAvery will also create a diorama of a stage he designed for the video game Portal. He began this project by making a clay replica of the Portal gun. It is just 2” long but Avery has captured the look and feel…and the details. Avery’s diorama skills were honed making the amazing Gates of Mordor. The Gates took nearly a year to complete but Avery learned several cool model-making techniques and he stayed focused. The payoff was a spectacular diorama.

Avery's Gates of Modor with photoshopped background.

Avery’s Gates of Modor with photoshopped background.

Sash does his homeworkSasha is using his project time to get help with his school homework. We have all been impressed by his determination and his persistence.

With Matt as his mentor/tutor, Sasha spends hours working on geometry and history. But there is always time for LARP swordplay and Pokemon Go.

 

V and Sara
IMG_0226.mov.00_00_13_29.Still001
Vee-Liam just completed Phase One of the Autistry Core Workshop program – 6 weeks of 1:1 work with Sara as his mentor. Together they created a wonderfully whimsical stop-motion video, Monkey and Banana.

Vee-Liam created his character and set pieces in the 2D CAD/CAM program, PartWorks and then sent the files to the laser cutter.

The scene was shot on the multi-plane camera set-up and edited in Adobe Premiere Pro. Lots of learning, lots of fun.

 

Next week we will feature the students and projects of the Thursday Autistry Core Workshop.

Gears2Please 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.

Thank you,
Janet, Dan, Sara, Allie, Gabrielle, Matt, Nghi, Bryant, and James

November 12, 2016 – Newsletter

| 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.

SaturdayWe 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!

Matilda stageIt 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.

mike on CADMichael 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.

s SonicCreating 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 drivesAlex 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!

ghostbusters

pix-eIt 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

vicTank 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.

 

GabisGabi 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.

Gears2Please 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.

Thank you,
Janet, Dan, Sara, Allie, Gabrielle, Matt, Nghi, Bryant, and James

Autistry Newsletter August 15, 2016

| August 15, 2016

FestivalLogo1web-768x390What a great summer! New faces, cool excursions, and lots of great news. But before we look back, let’s look forward to this coming weekend. Steve Gatlin of Special Affects Films has organized a film festival “dedicated to showcasing the finest films being produced for, by and about the special needs community in the world today“. Autistry has one entry this year: Nat Snell’s Alphabet Mission to Mars. Information on the festival can be found on the festival website. Tickets for the event and for the individual screenings can be purchased online.

nats150Nat’s film will be shown in the Short Film group which starts at 4:45pm on Saturday (note that is after the Autistry Saturday workshop!). Please join us as we support Nat and all the filmmakers at the Special Affects Film Festival.
 

EMBoard Business: In July we welcomed Emily Woods to the Autistry Board of Directors. Emily grew up in the heart of the maker movement helping her family create MAKE Magazine, the Maker Faire, and TechShop. Emily graduated with a BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz. She is the Member Ambassador for TechShop, Inc., oversees the member experience at TechShop San Francisco, and is currently part of the advance team launching a new TechShop in St. Louis, MO. Emily brings enthusiasm and a full tank of Maker Spirit.

Summer Fun:
This year we began a new program of adventure – Autistry Excursions. Hosted and organized by the Autistry Support Network, these day trips were a huge hit. As president of the ASN, Dick Dinkelspiel took the lead and coordinated trips to Alcatraz, the California Academy of Sciences, a train trip to the California State Railroad Museum, and a day at Stinson Beach. We started these as summer outings but will continue the excursions throughout the year. Oh, the places we’ll go!

whitewaterWhitewater Side Trip:One trip that we will definitely organize is a spring or summer weekend of whitewater rafting on the South Fork of the American River. In July, Betty Lituanio organized an event through Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) in Placerville. Ian, Janet, Lisa, and Reed went with a group of about 25 eager rafters. It was fabulous. The campsite was pristine. The sun was shining. And the river was refreshingly cool (OK, it was damn cold!). Spiraling through the rapids is an unforgettable and exhilarating experience. This should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Writing on the Wall: “We must write about this” has become a mantra at Autistry. Unfortunately we are so busy that we rarely get the quiet, uninterrupted time necessary to compose coherent missives. However, Dan did manage to write a post about Ian leaving home. Yes, almost 2 years ago Ian moved into a house with 3 other young men. Launching our autistic kids is not for the faint of heart. You can read Dan’s post, Oh Yeah, Ian Moved Out on the Autistry website.

Two of our Dominican University OT mentors have written a great article about their work at Autistry. Erin Chaffee and Bryant Luong worked with a young man, Michael for several months. They were very impressed with Michael’s ability to incorporate new strategies that helped him with self-regulation, posture, focus, and attention. Their article also highlights the power and effectiveness of Autistry’s Project-Based Therapy. Michael’s R3ptor – an OT Perspective can also be found on the website.

We have several new initiatives planned for Autistry. But talk of those will have to wait until the next newsletter.

Janet, Dan, and the Autistry Team