My name is Sylvia van Meerten. This blog is about people getting to be who they want to be, being accountable for their own actions, and finding a habitable place in the world. It is not about victims, or about blame. I am ‘neurotypical’ (although, out of context, people would laugh at me for saying that). After getting to know people with autism and their families for 12 years, and learning a variety of autism methodologies in several states, I’ve seen a lot of brilliant work, and a lot of crap. Thankfully, none of the crap has tainted my belief that people on the spectrum have a lot to contribute. The rest of us do too. This little blog is part of my personal contribution. For me, EmpowerAutism is an everyday practice, and I want to share it.
Want to talk about resources, staff training, program-development, activity groups, homeschooling, or home programs? Empower Autism is also my small business, and I love to talk shop.
You can contact me!
My Current Projects:
The Adventure Club
This is a project for the Autism Society of NC. It is an after-school program the is funded under the Innovations Waiver in Buncombe County. Kids (and their one-on-one staff) meet daily after school and go on theme-based adventures with friends.
This is a camp for kids with serious illnesses and disorders. I got to design their autism sessions, which have grown significantly each year! Summer camp is such a blast (swimming, boating, ropes-course, archery…), and campers and staff with autism really contribute to our program. I get to speak at camping conferences for Dragonfly, and help other camps learn to welcome campers with autism. See a photo essay about Dragonfly Forest on TIME magazines website.
This is another partnership with Dragonfly Forest. We implemented a series of after-school clubs and activities for kids with autism, and another series of club for, and with, adults with autism. Kids will get to choose which groups interest them (anything from dinosaur theme club to swimming to cooking), and adults will get to create their own clubs if they wish. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project! The pilot for this program will be in Asheville, starting in the fall of 2010, but the best part about this much-needed venture is that we are designing it to be replicable, so we can implement it in your town too!
Home Program Design
One of the aspects of my business is home-program design. If you have a family with autism, and you want some help getting organized about difficult parts of the day, or you want to figure out how to offer someone more social opportunities, or more pre-employment experiences, my team can design a plan of action for your family. Many many families learn to ‘just deal’ with scenarios that could be improved with some outside perspective. If you want some help, let us know. We respect economic difficulties, and our programs are dignified and appreciative. Read More
More Minor Projects
The Adventure Zone
This is a cool out-door ‘activity trail’, that I designed for the Cradle of Forestry, while I worked for the Autism Society of North Carolina. It is autism-friendly, and visitors can make a visual schedule of stuff to do, use a cool trail map, and look at clearly-written directions at each activity station.
Soapboxing: When I get fired-up about stuff, I write articles. A recent one is in Issue 38 of The Autism File–it’s about autism and summer camp.
Past Jobs (Autism-Related)
The Autism Community Center of Asheville
This was a resource center for people with autism, and their families. It was thrilling for me to design programming for this exciting place. Our activity groups allowed people to do high-interest stuff, with other people who like similar things. Also, it’s was my job to go hiking, cook, and and play video games with kids…How cool is that!? The Center no longer exists, but it inspired me to create The Spectrum Project (website coming soon).
Autism Society of North Carolina: I was a Services Coordinator, and put together home-programs for families with autism, and managed state and federally funded services for people with autism. ASNC is a great organization, a
Blue Ridge Bags and More, a small business that employs adults with autism to make art, and assemble Home Teaching Kits.
I’ve worked privately for many families in Michigan, New York, Washington, and North Carolina. Each of them is unique, brave, compassionate, and in varying states of overwhelmed. I salute you all.
I’ve recently complete my MA at The Union Institute and University where I specialized in family counseling. My favorite part of school was getting access to all the nerdy academic databases! I can spend hours in there…