January 5, 2021 – Newsletter

| January 6, 2021

It feels so good to write 2021 and put 2020 behind us. Though the last year was dark with fires, COVID, and economic uncertainty there were times of light and laughter. Autistry ended the year with stunning success stories.

We supported 20 students taking several different courses at College of Marin and…all the students not only passed but most passed with As!

A huge round of applause for our Drama students, the COM professors Molly Noble and Lisa Morse, Autistry staff Gabrielle Haggett-Molina, Phil Lewis and Benji Harrington for a wonderful online theater experience. The students performed scenes from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown directed by drama major, Michelle Samuels. The students also performed monologues for their course final. We look forward to more collaboration with the COM Drama Department in 2021.

Drama Class Monologues

And kudos to Program Manager Claire Watry who lead her team (Cindy Clogston and Ellie Lastra) in supporting seven Autistry students taking English 120. All seven students ACED the class! These guys studied very hard, never missed a class, and helped each other by reviewing each other’s work and giving helpful feedback. Many of them are going on to take Creative Writing this spring semester. We are looking forward to the stories they will tell.

Shelby Green and Rhoda Robertson guided three students through the new STSK:Math class. They practiced everyday practical math and learned how to write a budget and how loan payments work (yes, you end up paying a lot more when you factor in that interest!). They each did a final project where they shared a portion of the class that they liked or wanted to learn more about. One student chose to do a presentation on needs and wants and how best to manage them (I could use that advice!). Another focused his presentation on budgeting. And one student, wrote a song that encourages growing your own business and gave advice on the best ways to do that. Practical projects that were made fun!

Shelby and Claire also supported one of our students as she followed her path toward becoming a medical assistant. She took Medical Terminology and Medical Administration Procedures. These are not easy classes but she aced both of them and will not doubt continue this success in 2021. The healthcare industry needs this Autistry student!

We continued the paid internship program with the horses at Cadence Farm because, hey, plague or no plague horses need to be exercised, need to eat, and they keep on pooping! Our interns are doing a great job and are becoming skilled equestrian support workers.

Working at Cadence Farm

Sara Gardner and Dan Coppock added to their Cadence chores by supporting four students in a very demanding Multi-Media class focusing on PhotoShop. The students created movie posters, book covers, and fantasy self-portraits – Alter Egos! Elf in the Meadow, Raging Unicorn, and the Angel in the Outfield:

Alter Egos

Sunday we started the year off with a battle royal! Our Dungeons and Dragons players had landed themselves in prison. In order to win their freedom they had to outwit their Goblin guards. In a series of clever games, masterly role-playing and lucky D20 rolls, they are now poised to break free. More to come next Sunday as we continue this weekly adventure led by Dan, Michaela Callahan, Samantha Gardner, and Tamera McNeil.

Goblins Attack!

Presidio & Ferries 28


We plan to resume paid internship activity at the Western Railway Museum as soon as COVID passes and the facility opens up. Dan is now on the WRM board and enjoys meeting with other train enthusiasts online to discuss museum issues. He has also designated a project for Autistry – rebuilding the Presidio and Ferries 28, a double-ended, single truck trolley car which resembles a short version of a California Street cable car. It is a mere hulk so lots of work to be done!

Looking forward to a great new year!

August 27, 2020 – Newsletter

| August 27, 2020

The first week of college classes has begun. Yes, summer 2020 is truly over and what a strange, surreal experience this has been. In mid-March we converted all our services to working remote. We usually plan several outdoor adventures during the summer: whitewater rafting, kayaking, camping, and long walks along the beach. But this summer it was Zoom, Zoom, Zoom and for fun, a little bit more Zooming. And yet, we managed to have a great time at Autistry. A time that was both entertaining and educational and we even found a way to do limited outdoor activities. For this I thank our great Autistry staff.

Black Beauty

With the mandated COVID lockdown we began the summer with entirely online programming. Michaela and Reina designed an exciting and engaging Autistry Summer English curriculum. They chose the book, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and created amazing activities and challenging academic assignments to augment the reading. This class was a huge success with several students and their families reporting a renewed interest in reading. We want to continue to encourage this love of reading, so this fall we created the Autistry Book Clubs. These clubs are less academic than the Autistry Summer English class but just as educational (in other words – no homework!). We kicked off the new clubs with Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Sara is coordinating her virtual equestrian sessions from Cadence Farm with the reading material to bring the book to life.


 
For our more advanced readers, Dan led a class based on the program developed by Pixar and Disney: Imagineering in a Box. This course prepared our students for English 120 which many of them will be taking at College of Marin this fall. They practiced world creation, descriptive writing skills, and understanding story themes in the context of stories they chose and assigned works. The course videos and many support materials can be found online at the Kahn Academy. Dan adapted the course to help our students smoothly transitioned into the College of Marin English class. There will be 7 Autistry students in the English 120 class and they are ready to go!


By mid-June, the COVID restrictions had lifted slightly so our paid internship (PIP) crews returned to work at Cadence Farm. They groomed and exercised the horses, cleaned and refreshed the stalls, polished the tack, and generally supported the Square Peg staff. The interns also wrote wonderful essays in support of their favorite horses for the T.I.P. Thoroughbred of the Year Nominations. Sara Gardner provided remote equestrian tutorials via, yes, Zoom! These twice-a-week sessions kept those Autistry students who were not able to go to the stables connected to their equine friends – and the horses enjoyed the attention.
 
 
Another PIP crew was able to return to work with the rangers at the Marin County Parks. The crews are scheduled to rotate working at each of the 12 Marin County parks, spending 6 weeks at each one. The first crew worked at McNears Park and then Paradise Beach Park before we paused the program to prepare for the new school semester. Once the school rhythm is established the crews will return – and they are eager to get back to work.


The Park Rangers report that the Autistry crews have been a great support and help at the parks. The Autistry crews have learned to identify the various invasive species present in the parks and have helped the rangers both in maintaining the aesthetic landscaping of the parks as well as managing the balance of native plant life there.
 
 
The staff also organized weekly small group hikes in and around local neighborhoods. The students and staff practiced recommended COVID safety measures – wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart, and routinely washing their hands. The mentors met up with the students in their own neighborhoods, so transportation was kept to a minimum. When rides were needed, they were provided by family members or designated drivers. These outings were essential for everyone’s mental health! These neighborhood hikes were another lesson learned this summer and one that we will continue throughout the year. The anxiety brought about by the COVID uncertainty only grows stronger when one is socially isolated.
 
 
We have been thinking a lot about the long-term life goals of our Autistry students. We have seen how important a good basic education is to the development of a strong personal identity and how productive, meaningful work sustains and nourishes that identity. Autistry is excited and hopeful about the movement to create the Autism Full Employment Act of 2021. And we are happy to take part in the discussion as we all explore employment options. To read more about the Autism Full Employment Act please read the article by Michael Bernick posted in Forbes earlier this week.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay in touch!

-Janet, Dan, Sara, Matt and the entire Autistry Team

Newsletter – March 31, 2020

| March 31, 2020

Autistry shot into 2020 as if from a child’s slingshot with the Heart of Marin Award quickly followed by the Jefferson Award and now here we all are grounded like naughty teenagers.

The Autistry staff was not deterred. Within 2 days of the Shelter-in-Place (SIP) order they had all our clients online with access to our home base server on Discord. They helped each client download software to access group activities and stay engaged with our community. This was an incredible achievement which required hours of patiently giving directions over the phone on how to configure the different devices – iPads, laptops, tablets, iPhones, etc. The Autistry team is filled with gaming nerds and programmers who are fabulous at tech support.

A special shout out to Allie Mages who has uncovered hidden tech skills becoming the Autistry go-to tech admin person.

Many of the College of Marin courses that our students were taking have converted to online classes. We currently support students in Psychology, Multi-Media, English, Ethnic Studies, Organic Farming and Medical Assistant courses. Our mentors are able to continue supporting the students in class and also in online study groups led by the Autistry course mentors.

 

These sessions have been very successful and we will probably continue to offer these in addition to real-life groups after the SIP has been lifted.  And we have discovered great ways to make learning fun: Claire and Annie playing hangman to help memorize medical terms.

 

For classes that have been cancelled the staff continue to meet with the students in online Zoom groups and have created curricula to replicate and extend the work the students had been doing at COM. This has been quite a challenge for Ceramics but Matt and Chuy are coming up with cool activities to keep everyone learning. The Voice for Actors class actually works well as a virtual experience. Phil and Reina give each student the opportunity to present their monologue to the others in a Zoom meeting and get feedback. They are doing monologues from Beauty and the Beast.

 

And even our paid internship crews are continuing to gain knowledge about their workplaces. Sara Gardner began this week to create online learning modules about horse care and characteristics. She plans to augment these modules with instructive videos on how to exercise horses and how to clean and maintain equipment. When they have a moment to spare, Dan will create some training modules on trains at the Western Railway Museum and Matt will design a module about Marin County Parks.

 

Check out this short video about Autistry for the Jefferson Award: 

2018 Update

| December 29, 2018

Oh, what an amazing year!

Autistry growth in 2018 was much like that of a teenager- awkward and exhilarating, fun and a bit frightening, at times plodding and frustrating yet filled with limitless possibilities.
We grew in bursts and scrambled to hire staff to work with all the new students. We went from 4-day work weeks to 6-day work weeks (and the 7th may yet come into play).

Like teenagers, we explored, experimented, bonded together, and overcame obstacles as we pushed through to a new level of organizational maturity.

Core Workshop: we welcomed many new students this year and saw the completion of some outstanding projects. Edward and Tom created beautiful large puppets that have now set off a new puppet-making trend at the studio. Danielle put the finishing touches on her Under the Sea 4-piece multi-media artwork. Alex’s new board game is a huge hit. Jonathan designed and built octagonal redwood end tables for his patio. Steven and Nat are each working on sequels to their last animated short films. Freya finished Jupiter, the first in her ShopBot planet project. And Avery’s Venom diorama received far better reviews than the movie!

Autistry Comprehensive Adult Program: our most impressive growth has come in the ACAP program. Not only did we triple our ACAP student body after the spring semester but we have several new students and new staff beginning in January. All our ACAP students take at least one academic college course during their first two semesters in the program. Managing all these college course schedules, vocational skill trainings, and community activities is a challenge but well worth the effort: the Fall 2018 students surpassed all our expectations! Many of our students are well on their way to getting AA degrees. Others have discovered new abilities and awakened dormant talents by taking challenging courses. They all worked diligently, studied in earnest, and are setting new goals for themselves in 2019.

I could not be prouder of this group of young adults, many of whom did not recieve a high school diploma. They have reinvigorated my faith in the resilency of the human brain and the human spirit. Seeing their success has also strengthened my committment to continue to advocate for remedial level community college Math and English courses that allow students to gain foundational academic skills. The maturational lag of autism often precludes autistic individuals from accessing/processing abstract information at the same age as their neurotypical peers. Because of this, autistic students are diverted into speical education life skills courses and are assumed to be unable to grasp complex material. But, as the Autistry students are proving, brains mature at different rates and when they are ready they surprise us all.

2019 Plans: Autistry has partnered with two other nonprofit organizations to create vocational internships. Square Peg Foundation at Cadence Farm in Sonoma and the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista both offer a wide variety of jobs and many opportunities to learn new skills. At Cadence Farm our crews will be working with rescued thoroughbred racehorses and helping to maintain the farm and keeping all the various riding equipment in top shape. At the Western Railway Museum there is much work to be done restoring historic trolley cars, general museum upkeep, and engaging with the public. Meaningful work and continued college education are the key ingredients for Autistry 2019.

It’s End-of-Year Donation time! Please help us continue to create innovative and exciting programs for autistic teens and adults. To see what your donations support check out the Giving 2018 Blog or go directly to our Donate Page. Thank you!

Join us on Facebook for the latest project photos and program updates.

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.