Pat Bratt [email protected] 973-477-9228
Lori Feigenbaum [email protected] 972—629-1002
iStrive at ACAP
ACAP Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis and BGSP-NJ
Announcing iStrive: Where young adults, high-functioning on the autism spectrum can thrive!
iStrive is ACAP’s new, unique Saturday program supporting young adults, high functioning on the autism spectrum, who are aging out of most programs, and their families. Located in Livingston for young adults high-functioning on the autism spectrum and their families.
iStrive offers social, emotional and career mentorship, empowering neurodiverse young adults to overcome obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential in all areas. Emerging adults, age 18 and over, whose essential life skills mature in a nontraditional pattern are often considered to have plateaued simply because of chronological age. We disagree and want to encourage and promote the continued growth we know is possible. We do not want them to “fall off the cliff”, as is often described, once general educational services are no longer available. Our experience is that these valuable community members learn in divergent ways that are often sparked by emotional connectedness that coincides with the learning process and socialization opportunity. Our program provides this experiential platform combined with concrete skill building and self-advocacy training.
Just as important, iStrive is a social club designed by and for its members and their families.
Patricia Bratt, the Director and innovator of the program, has been a psychoanalyst working with those on autism spectrum for many decades. Out of this clinical experience in Livingston and through ACAP she helped create the iStrive program in cooperation with many parents, professionals and ACAP staff. “What a terrific day January 12th was for the launch of iStrive. Staff, participants, parents, we were all excited and nervous about how the day would go. It was extraordinary and better than we imagined.” She reported. “ Prior to Saturday staff spent many hours figuring out the “curriculum” and processes for this first day. We had two concepts around which each activity would revolve: “getting to know you” and ” what I’d like to change”. We developed several activities as vehicles to explore these themes. Our goal was to have them in the back of our minds, tools ready to bring out as needed to help participants get to know each other and define how they wanted the group to be run and organized. As our Wednesday Parent Meeting advised, we emphasized in our first Community Meeting with participants the ideas that we are there as the guides, and are very grateful to them for sharing this adventure to build a center that will reflect what they believe will make iStrive successful for them. At several points it was emphasized that they are the experts on what works or doesn’t for them, and only with their help and leadership can we build iStrive for them, and those who will join later, and hopefully be mentored by them.”
There were funny, serious and poignant moments throughout a day that consisted of group talks, in large and small. There was art, iStrive logo creating, shared music, self chosen games (chess, yahtzee, heads up, apples to apples, cards, and more). People teamed up or pulled aside for a bit. Impressive.
In our last group, which staff thought of as geared toward issues of recognizing choices and making decisions, we laughed over how everything can be seen as a choice. Real life moments were vehicles for exploring these.
- If you forgot your water bottle in the other room, what are your choices about getting it? What impact would each have? What decision would you make and why.
- If the group decided they wanted to have background music while talking and someone got distracted by it (amazingly the groups choice for that segment was Nat King Cole, because “it set a mood”) what are the person’s choices, the group’s?
A stack of question cards made its round of the room (selecting which card from the pack was noted as a “choice”), then the question read aloud and answered. Some got thrown to the whole group.
- “What’s your favorite pizza topping?” Pepperoni won by far! Except Vicki likes veggies, George pineapple, and Peter doesn’t like pizza.
- Peter got the question, “How would you measure whether you’re successful?” He thought it was by seeing how much he could accomplish at a specific thing. M’Cai jumped in with the idea that someone might have what is an extremely important job, like CEO of a big corporation, and be miserable. Someone else might have a less lucrative job, like a fisherman, and feel really satisfied and at peace with themselves.
- One of George’s card questions was “If you suddenly changed genders what would be the first thing you’d do?” “Buy shoes.” He quickly said, and that led to another funny conversation.
The day concluded with a few minutes of yoga mediation, and a debrief of the day with requests for feedback: what’s good, what to get rid of, what to add in. Most astonishing, someone mentioned it would be good to have segments on “meltdown management”. Another person piped up that, “We break. We breakdown.” Still others were nodding in agreement. We would never have thought to bring this up so directly, especially on the first day when trying to emphasize positive growth, not challenging behaviors. But this was an idea about growth that came from within the group. We asked who, among participants and staff, never had meltdowns. Of course, no hands up. We talked briefly about what different meltdowns looked like, and tabled the discussion for next time.
It was time to go, and I heard murmurings of how fast it went, although being in it wasn’t always easy. We know there will be times when kids will resist coming in, when it’ll be easier to sleep late, or avoid uncomfortable feelings. But we are convinced that with your help encouraging your young adult to take the challenge of being in the world in a way that’s not always fun, but will eventually get them someplace they’d like to be in life, there will be remarkable success.
Here’s some of the feedback from iStrive launch day.
“M liked every aspect of Saturday! Made me realize how much we needed your program.”
“C was very pleased with his experience. He said it was exactly what he was hoping for and was looking forward to the next time! It’s comforting to see you guys have already developed a clear picture of who C is and I’m excited to see what this turns out to be for him. Looking forward to next weekend, have a great week all!”
“Thank you so much for this, J had a great time… He enjoyed each part of the program and meeting new friends.”
“A was sailing high all day. He loved the program and is looking forward to next week. Great job all!!!”
iStrive at ACAP. 301 S. Livingston Ave., Livingston, NJ 07039
info: [email protected] or 973-629-1002
www.acapnj.org/istrive and follow on FaceBook and Instagram: ACAP iStrive