PROMOTING COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION FOR AUTISTIC LEARNERS
Collaboration between Dr. Tina Fletcher from TWU’s School of Occupational Therapy and My Possibilities staff and HIPsters
PLANO, TX – In 2020, Texas Woman’s University School of Occupational Therapy and My Possibilities were awarded $267,477 in funds from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board to help promote community participation for students, schools, and venues impacted by autism spectrum disorders. The approach was multifaceted with two main prongs of work: developing tools to help community partners meet the needs of autistic people in the community and developing tools for educators, therapists, and self-advocates to better support and educate adolescents and young adults transitioning from school to community environments. The current outcomes for autistic adolescents and adults often include social isolation and stressful/difficult attempts at participation in community events and venues, as well as extremely low rate of unemployment and high rate of reliance on social supports. This work created avenues of education for both community partners striving to create more inclusive places and educators who are looking for meaningful curricula to better prepare students for community experiences.
TWU developed partnerships with venues such as the Dallas Zoo, Dallas Museum of Arts, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Frontiers of Flight Museum (all part of the Dallas Sensory Consortium) to create educational materials regarding creating welcoming spaces for autistic people of all ages. These materials for the community partners include self-study courses, podcasts, and informational sheets regarding several topics, including subjects like architecture and design for autism, autism-friendliness community audits, and welcoming autistic people in community settings. They also created and piloted the “sensory space on wheels” to take to community settings to engage neurodiverse community members in sensory-friendly ways.
My Possibilities developed an innovative 220-page curriculum called “Promoting Community Participation for Autistic Learners.” The curriculum aims to support autistic learners on a meaningful path toward self-awareness, self-care, and self-advocacy in community environments. Development of the curriculum included blending current recommendations for best practices with professional expertise and the valuable input of HIPsters who trialed different iterations of the curriculum and contributed feedback on curriculum and lessons. Participatory research is part of what contributes to TWU’s innovation and MP is helping keep up with current trends in the field. The curriculum meets the needs of a variety of learners through hands-on, practical, and engaging lessons that are immediately relevant.
To learn more about Planning for Autism and Sensory on Wheels visit bit.ly/PlanningForAutism.
About My Possibilities
My Possibilities is a North Texas for-cause 501(c)(3) organization that serves as a pioneering leader in vocational education for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities throughout North Texas. To learn more, visit mypossibilities.org.
About Texas Woman’s University
Texas Woman’s University cultivates engaged leaders and global citizens by leveraging its historical strengths in health, liberal arts, and education and its standing as the nation’s largest public university primarily for women. Committed to transformational learning, discovery, and service in an inclusive environment that embraces diversity, Texas Woman’s inspires excellence and a pioneering spirit. To learn more, visit https://twu.edu/.