Expansion and Enhancement of the Occasio Program for Youth with Autism

The Cause

For many young people on the spectrum taking some time out from family and caregivers who provide daily support can be difficult. However, spending time away can be extremely beneficial and can provide much needed space and independence for both the person on the spectrum and their support network. In recognition of these needs and benefits, we continued to expand our Occasio Program, which offers respite to parents and social and recreational activities for people on the spectrum in a secure and supportive group setting.

Occasio is all about encouraging children and youth with autism reach their potential. Literally, Occasio means “opportunity” in Latin, and although opportunity looks different for each participant, the goal of the program is to provide opportunities for growth.

The program intends to create a community where participants can meet and connect with peers who share their interests. It also aims to help participants develop lifelong skills and enhance their interaction skills. The need for such programming is pressing as the lack of social abilities remains the most fundamental and common challenge faced by individuals with autism. Program activities are delivered by staff that we call “Social Architects.” They help scaffold learning and support relationship building among the group. Many of them are young adults with autism, and we find they are often perceived as mentors and role models by the Occasio participants.

Our idea is to enhance and expand the Occasio Program to bring more unique experiences to our participants. With your help, we will organize field trips as well as activities focused on learning lifelong skills including cooking, grocery shopping learning, etc.

Who Will it Benefit?

Kids and teenagers with autism and their families will be directly impacted by the enhancement and expansion of the Occasio Program.
Primarily, this program addresses the following needs:
(1) availability of services to engage children with autism and provide services for them that will allow them to experience social activities, develop relationships and friendships and grow to a level where they are able to better function throughout their lives;
(2) an equally important issue is the ability of parents, who often struggle with providing for the sometimes overwhelming needs of one or more children on the autism spectrum in addition to regular family needs, to have a period of respite, knowing that for their child the respite time is not just “babysitting” but rather a period of engagement and enhancement.