Puzzle Solvers helps participants address immediate challenges such as finding employment, safe and affordable housing, reliable transportation and accessible community services, as well as think about and plan for long-term goals. Without such support, participants run the risk of becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the community and not reaching their full potential as productive citizens.
Programs and Services
Our Support Group
Our support and self-advocacy group for adults on the autism spectrum meets monthly in the board room at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation, while a companion group for parents and other relatives meets in an adjoining classroom. Generally, meeting topics are determined by the needs and interests of people in the group. Topics have included employment, education, housing, money management and budgeting, and services available in the community. We’ve also watched videos about the disability-rights movement, bullying and various aspects of autism, as well as videos in which people talk about what it’s like to have autism. Sometimes we have brought in a representative from a social service agency to explain services members want to access.
Life Skills Training
A team of Applied Behavior Analysis therapists offers life skills training at our monthly support group meetings on topics ranging from emotional regulation and problem solving to conflict resolution and making friends. Companion sessions are held simultaneously for parents/family members to help them support their family member with autism in reinforcing the skills they are learning.
Puzzle Solvers offers a variety of recreational activities for adults on the autism spectrum and their families. Our activities have included bowling, a night at the zoo, movies, a museum tour, and an annual Christmas party. In 2016, the group chartered a bus for a trip to St. Louis, and in 2017, will go to Chicago. Support group participants have discussed the difficulty they experience making friends, and recreational activities provide a comfortable outlet to meet people and share similar issues, goals and dreams.
Community Education and Advocacy
Puzzle Solvers board members and volunteers are available to engage in public speaking and staff information tables at social service agencies, civic organizations and public events to educate about our group and the issues we face. These presentations have resulted in donations and member/volunteer recruitment as well as educating the public about the realities and needs of adults on the autism spectrum. Puzzle Solvers produces fact sheets and other printed materials to educate the public about these issues and advocate for adults on the spectrum.
COMING SOON: Community Integration Services
In 2017, Puzzle Solvers plans to hire a Community Integration Specialist. This person will conduct initial intake interviews with new program participants and/or their families to assess their needs, create a service plan for each participant/family, provide referrals as needed, and review service plans at regular intervals to assess progress. The Community Integration Specialist will also advocate with, or on behalf of, participants/families to help them access employment or job coaching services, educational opportunities, housing options, recreational activities, transportation, ADA accommodations and other community integration needs. This person provide direct individual coaching as well, assisting participants in filling out forms, making and getting to appointments and following through on service plans.