Project THRIVE provides degree-seeking students who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related disorders with equal access to the University of North Florida. Throughout the year, THRIVE hosts social events that encourage students to practice social skills in a welcoming environment. One of the events included a game afternoon, where students could bring in board, card, or electronic games and host tournaments. The day was filled with laughter and friendly competition. The afternoon of recreation was not exclusive to THRIVE participants, but open to all UNF students. People from all sorts of majors and programs could integrate and create a closer campus community.
Young adults with ASD may find it difficult at first to socialize with their peers. So, communal events like this allow students to explore their social boundaries. Making this game day inclusive also gave THRIVE students the opportunity to make new friends. When it comes to friendships, sometimes you need to take the interaction outside of the classroom. In a laidback setting, people will feel more comfortable to be themselves.
As seen in the picture, students played card games while munching and sipping on snacks provided by the HDS Foundation. THIRVE Coordinator, Tara Rowe, is also pictured hanging out with two students during the afternoon. Tara has kept the HDS Foundation updated with THRIVE’s happenings and shared great pictures. We encourage Project THRIVE to continue their mission and hope they keep hosting these fun events next school year!
Recently, Project THRIVE held their Community Learning Opportunity (CLO) event. CLO is a career fair held for the THRIVE students, in which the students educate businesses and employers on what Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is and different ways to support employees with ASD in the workplace. The career fair allows students to network with potential employers, building relationships that can help them get jobs with the company in the future.
The students prepared for the Community Learning Opportunity event for quite some time. They built resumes that highlighted their education, extracurricular activities, and work experience to present to the employers. THRIVE staff briefed the students beforehand on how the event would work, what companies would be there, and how to approach the employers they were interested in getting a job with. The days before the event were spent practicing individual introductory speeches with the Program Director and Assistant Dean of Students. Introductions are crucial during a job search, so preparing these speeches ensured that the students would be able to connect with the employers, especially those that offered jobs interesting to them.
When the day finally arrived, excitement and anticipation coursed through the students, directors, and employers. The event was held in a large room with tables for the company representatives to set up. The students arrived later and they had clearly dressed to impress, some even sporting full suits! The students circled the room, stopping at each table to introduce themselves find out each representative’s role at their company. If the student was particularly interested in a job, they could hand the employer their resume.
The students also had the opportunity of speaking with the employers about what it means to have Autism Spectrum Disorder, how it affects their life, and how to accommodate people with ASD in the workplace. They spoke of previous accommodations made by co-workers that had helped them, and different ways a workplace could support employees with ASD. It was a learning experience for the employers to be presented with first-hand accounts of how to assist their employees with ASD while having a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
CLO was a success for the employers and the Project THRIVE team, and we loved hearing about the experience. Congratulations on another successful CLO!
In March, Dr. Temple Grandin gave a seminar at the University of North Florida about her accomplishments. This was of particular interest to the THRIVE students because Dr. Temple Grandin is a remarkably successful woman and innovator in the agricultural field, who also has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr Grandin’s seminar is titled “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism.” The THRIVE program directors and students had the incredible opportunity of not only listening to Dr. Grandin’s life story but also being able to meet her.
In the seminar, “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism,” Dr. Grandin discusses her life growing up and how she because interested in the agricultural industry. She spoke about having difficulties in English class as it focused on figurative language, but she found mathematics and science mush easier as they were based on logic and formulas. She also had a very strong grasp on visual learning. Having autism had led her to think in pictures; for example, when someone mentioned a horse, she would mentally pull up all the pictures of horses she had ever seen.
Thinking in pictures also significantly helped her in pursuing a career in agriculture and in designing popular cattle herding methods. She was able to pick up on thing other people could not. She was also very skilled at tracking and understanding their movement in circular patters, and angles that would be bast suited to them, which aided in their further development of methods.
Temple Grandin faced many obstacles in her life. She was a newcomer to the field when she was first trying to make tremendous changes. At the time, people had very little understanding of Autism. She preserved these obstacles and paved the way for others who also shared in her difficulties with Autism.
Dr. Grandin is considered the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. In fact, her journey was made into a film. The THRIVE students were so inspired and thrilled to see and meet someone like them who overcame so many obstacles and rose to such a level of success. Dr. Grandin’s presentation also increased awareness and understanding about ASD for UNF students who may not have encountered ASD or who may not have understood what it means to have ASD.
After the seminar, the THRIVE students met with Dr. Grandin to take pictures and speak to her for a bit. They were thrilled to have met her.
Thank you to Dr. Temple Grandin for visiting UNF and to UNF for hosting this wonderful event. Also, thank you to Tara Rowe for all the great pictures you shared with us!
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Helping with the HDS Foundation over the past year has been a big part of why I’ve loved working here so much. In my time at HDS I have written a few of our blogposts for the foundation about the events it has hosted and participated in. Seeing how great of a time the kids and young adults have at these events brings me so much happiness. Their pure smiles can shed light onto the darkest of times, because they give off nothing but love and acceptance.My favorite memory is participating in the Dan Marino Walk About Autism with Team Kate. This walk happens every year and it just seems to get better and better. This past year Team Kate was the highest fundraiser for the event raising over $8,000 to help kids with Autism and disabilities in South Florida. I’m so proud to call Kate my friend and to see the beautiful young woman that she has become. The commitment and hard work she brings to everything that she does is astounding.In my last few days working in the office I had the pleasure of being able to meet Nico, a young man who will be interning here over the summer. I trained him and showed him the ins and outs of everything there is to do here at HDS. He was a pleasure to mentor and can tell that he is going to do great things. I can honestly say that this company and foundation have shaped my personal character in ways that you couldn’t imagine. It has been a pleasure to work with the HDS Foundation and I hope that one day maybe I’ll even have the opportunity to return.
Nothing but love, Max
Author: Max Berger
Last week, the BRIDGES program collaborated with the Cypress Bay High School Best Buddies Club and National Honors Society for a fundraiser at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. The fundraiser had an amazing turnout and was very successful in raising money. Everyone had a blast and got to eat some delicious food, too!
The BRIDGES program, Best Buddies, and the Honor Society raised funds by having people state that they were at Anthony’s for the fundraiser, and for each bill, Anthony’s would give 20%. The BRIDGES students were able to collaborate with the other two clubs to come up with the event and plan it. The students also came up with fliers to pass out and post on social media so that they could advertise their fundraiser. This led to quite a nice turnout!
Some of the HDS Foundation’s staff went out to support them. Carla was able to bring her family to help fundraise, and Meagan and Anthony also helped fundraise by buying some great food. Dr. Sandy came by to interact with the BRIDGES students and their families. Past BRIDGES students also wanted to support their peers, and so a bunch of them went to Anthony’s and got some yummy pizza. They had a great time getting to see their old peers and had great conversations.
The fundraiser had lots of support from the school, HDS Foundation, and peers, making a great turnout! The students are so proud of the event and themselves for helping put it together. Thank you to everyone who came out to support, and thanks to Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza for your continuous support!