Say Hello to AuSM Recreation and Social Programs
Early in our history, AuSM launched the first iteration of its social skills programming in the form of classes called Eagle’s Nest. After continuing the program under that name for years, we evolved into AuSM Social Skills Classes to reflect the focus of our community on providing opportunities for autistic youth and adults to learn skills and explore their community. Now we’re thrilled to share that we’re making another change. AuSM Social Skills Classes are now AuSM Recreation and Social Programs.
We believe that the best place for autistic youth and adults to learn social skills is in the community, organically, with their peers and mentors. AuSM operates on the model of social skills classes as community-based experiential learning opportunities. That’s why our social classes don’t include explicit instruction in social expectations. Instead, we partner with community organizations to build fun and engaging activities that kids and adults will love. Our participants naturally gain skills as they navigate new situations, get to know other students, and practice everything from improv to self-advocacy.
A parent from our 2022 summer classes shared that his son typically resists attending classes, but he was eager to come every day of AuSM classes. He asked every morning, many times, when it was going to be time to go to camp — something that had never happened before. Responses like this show the importance of centering our participants and their experiences — something that is at the heart of AuSM classes.
Many social skills programs focus on explicitly teaching communication tactics, whether that be eye contact or conversational approaches. AuSM does things differently. Our programs are rooted in a neurodivergence mindset and help kids and adults build skills naturally, in ways that work for them, while building community. Our new name reflects that we do not operate like traditional social skills classes: we don’t offer social skills “training.”
“Recreation and social programs allow our participants to embrace and engage in community activities whilst learning social skills,” notes AuSM Education Specialist Dayna Nelson. “There’s a huge need for this type of programming, as there are not enough organizations in both the metro and greater Minnesota that conduct them. Most social programming that is offered does not provide community interaction and outreach. Our participants have fun while learning boundaries, advocacy, healthy relationships, communicating with peers, and much more. There’s no pressure in our recreation programs for participants to be anything but themselves. It’s an accepting and nurturing environment where our staff meet the individual where the individual is at.”
In addition to better representing how we teach social skills, this new name is more expansive and covers the work that we do to provide organic and integrated community spaces for autistic adults to socialize. As we move into 2023, AuSM staff are working behind the scenes to increase the number of opportunities for adult community building and socializing. We’re connecting with new partners to create groups and meet ups for autistic adults to connect in ways that work for them. We see the new name as a reflection of the ways in which we are expanding to offer more resources for our adult community.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in our NEW AuSM Recreation and Social Programs!