Tri-County Autism Puzzle Place Academy
Our Mission: Welcome to Tri-County Autism Puzzle Place Academy, a facility designed to serve individuals diagnosed with Autism in the Tri-County area. Our organization provides extensive life skills and vocational training. Because of the growing number of individuals diagnosed with Autism, it is important to provide individual instruction with hands-on training along with continuing educational opportunities in an environment of love and unconditional acceptance. When our children perceive that the adults around them truly believe that he or she “can do it”, then they will have every chance of becoming the happy, competent adults their parents have always dreamed they would be. As Harriet Tubman quoted: “Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” It is our dream to change the world for your child.
Our Goal: We embrace the uniqueness of each individual and provide a training program that is personalized for each child based on their skill level and career interest. In 1999, the Surgeon General of the United States endorsed Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as the most appropriate behavior treatment for children diagnosed with Autism. Therefore, we use the principles of ABA Therapy as a model to teach specific target skills needed for these individuals to function and live as independently as possible. The target skills are broken down into small steps, with each one building on the other. Flow charts allow us to keep up with student progress and mastery of each skill. Rewards and positive reinforcement are provided for correct responses and mastery of each skill. Each child will have a mastery skill book to take home and practice skills in other settings. Center staff periodically reintroduces mastered skill to evaluate student recall of information. With mastery of life skills, vocational skills, and supported employment, these young adults with Autism have the opportunity to give back to our community, but most of all fulfill their hopes and dreams.
Teaching Strategies: We use supportive aids such as visual schedules, visual cues, and modeling of the behavior or skill temporarily, then we fade out. We teach each skill to fluency to allow skill performance and competence.
Skills Training: The students are given chores around the facility to allow them to practice skills and learn the importance of responsibilities. Listed below is a breakdown of a few skills we plan to introduce to the students at the center:
Social Skills: In order for your child to function appropriately in any setting, they need good communication skills. To promote social skills we practice the following:
- Introduce yourself
- Appropriate topics
- Proper way to end and have a conversation
- Group conversation
- Listening and taking turns
- Awareness of what others are interested in
- Provide peer buddy program and community based recreational activities with neuro-typical peers for practice of skills.
- Answering phone when ringing
- Hangs up correctly when call is over
- Writes a simple message
- Dials a number
- Know who to call in an emergency
Demographic Knowledge: For safety issues, it is important for each student to know their home address and family phone numbers.
Community Skills: Mastery of this skill set group will allow the student to acquire the functional skills required for everyday living experiences such as:
Visiting a Restaurant:
- Being seated
- Ordering from menu
Grocery Shopping: Field trips to the grocery to practice skills and learn how to navigate around the store.
- Planning menu
- Writing grocery list
- Navigating through the store
- Checking out
- Waiting for change
Banking: It is important for our students to understand how to use money and money management. Due to their vulnerability to strangers and possibly becoming targets, we need to teach them about keeping money secure.
- Counting money
- Making change
- Managing a bank account
Community Safety Skills: As our students gain more independence, it is important for them to safely navigate around their community.
- Emergency situations
- Use of public transportation
- Understanding street and safety signs
- Street crossing
- Public safety
- What to do when being bullied
Home Care Skills: As our students become adults and consider moving out or to a residential facility, it is important for them to have the skills needed to maintain their living space, plan and cook meals, and practice good hygiene.
- Personal hygiene
- Tying shoes
- Telling Time
- Food preparation
- Kitchen appliance use
- Making a bed
- Basic Cleaning
- Replacing light bulbs
- Proper use of tools
Vocational Training: We focus on career analysis based on individual’s interest and unique learning style. Work station models in the center allow students to practice job related skills including role-play with staff and fellow students. We partner with community businesses to develop apprenticeship programs for on-the-job-training to master the skills needed to increase quality and endurance and to ensure individual confidence. Some of the topics we cover are:
- Being on time
- Proper grooming
- Proper attire
- Appropriate social etiquette
Job Skills Training:
- Clerical work
- Sorting mail
- Shelving books
- Basic computer
- Basic assembly
- Food service
- Bagging groceries
Job Coaching: Supported employment placement for individuals with skill knowledge to be in the mainstream workforce. Appropriate support in place to ensure job requirements are met and that there are good relations between employee and employers.
- Interview skills
- Job placement
- Fitness program
- Community service volunteer work
With Autism on the rise and the increasing demands on our community, this program will allow us to meet the needs of the younger adult population diagnosed with Autism. My hope is to continue growing and provide the best services and resources to our families and their children.