Bridging the Gap – How the new Wesley Family Services Adult Day Autism Program provides individualized care during times of transition
Every day, Christopher is dropped off at Wesley Family Services at 8 a.m. He hangs up his bookbag, puts away his lunchbox, and checks in with staff in the program area. Afterwards, he retreats to the sensory room for some time to himself, before turning his focus towards drawing and drafting comic strips for the rest of the day.
For Tricia, who is also a part of the Autism Workshop program, the day is entirely different. She takes her alone time in the early afternoon, but uses the morning to complete math and reading worksheets.
The Adult Day Autism Program launched in April 2022, after staff at Wesley recognized the need, in part, due to socialization challenges brought on during the pandemic. It is an extension of Wesley Family Services’ already-established Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) programming, which provides vocational training, job support and other educational resources.
Adult development training at Wesley’s IDD program relies on monthly curriculum. However, that curriculum is based on socialization, and those with autism may need alternative support systems.
The Adult Day Autism Program bridges that gap for those 18 and older with an autism diagnosis by adapting curriculum to individual’s fortes and interests. While the main program is often very active, the autism program allows for breaks throughout the day.
Utilizing the Healthy Relationships Curriculum, participants are taught a combination of communication and life skills. Activities range from building with blocks, to arts and crafts, to physical activity. There is a designated sensory room available at any point in the day to utilize calming techniques.
A unique facet of the Adult Day Autism Program is not just tailoring schedules to better support needs, but also providing space and development for individual goals.
“The program is structured to cater to each individual’s strengths, through activities like art or physical movement,” said IDD Day Program Manager Erin Rodriguez. “But we also recognize that every person may need something different, at different times of the day, to achieve their goals.”
The flexibility and individuality are, by design, a microcosm of Wesley Family Services care model, Quality Whole Person Care*. It is a concept that Vice President of Transition – Age and Adult Services Heather Duncan knows well.
“Here, we don’t think in terms of ‘one size fits all’,” she said. “Quality Whole Person Care paves the way for the development of programs like the Adult Day Autism Program to provide specialized care.”
And- just like the curriculum itself, the end goal is flexible – and different – for everyone. Participants will not “age out” of the program, but are welcome to stay until they choose a different path.
“For some people, the goal may be to continue in our in-house program,” said Rodriguez. “While others may want to transfer to the vocational program, pursue community involvement or volunteer opportunities. We can support them in that pursuit and transition, as well.”
> For more information, please go to https://www.wfspa.org and fill out the form on the “Contact” page.