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Social Programs for Adults with Autism

It’s important to remain active and engaged during summer. Individuals with physical disabilities and/or developmental disabilities who participate in activities experience increased self-confidence and overall quality of life. Programs available at the Els for Autism Foundation® for adults to consider this summer include: 

The Spoken Wheel Society: A social group for adults with autism founded by Merrick Egber, an adult with autism. Each month the group meets both on campus at The Els Center of Excellence®, virtually, and in the community to participate in social and leisure activities. For more information or to become a member of The Spoken Wheel Society, contact our Employment Specialist/Job Coach, Kaylan Wrightson at 561-598-6200 or Kaylan.Wrightson@elsforautism.org.

The Adult Connections Club: An online club designed to provide individuals 13 years of age and older opportunities to interact with peers in a safe and supportive environment using video conferencing technology while practicing social and communication skills. Els for Autism® staff facilitate meetings, providing support and guidance so individuals of all abilities can actively participate in the group. Each meeting will follow a schedule, including a welcome introduction; a review of expectations; a stretching routine; fun facts; and a variety of discussion topics, games, and activities.

The Spectrum Book Club: A book club is designed for individuals ages 18 and older with autism or developmental disabilities who enjoy exploring the world of literature. Participants do not need to own a copy of the book. During the meeting, participants will be able to see the story, and Els for Autism staff will facilitate the group. Participants may take an active role as a reader during the meeting, or they can choose to listen to their peers. At the end of each meeting. staff will lead the group in a discussion and Q&A.

For more information on our Connections Club or the Spectrum Book Club, contact our Recreation Services Manager, Greg Connors at 561.598.6200 or by email at greg.connors@elsforautism.org 

We are currently finalizing our Rec Schedule for fall. Stay Tuned!

Safety and Sleep Tips for Summer Fun

We all look forward to the summer months since there are so many fun activities and family vacations to enjoy. Here are our tips for a successful, fun summer!

Swim Safety:
Swimming is a fun activity that most families engage in during the summer months. However, it is critical for children with autism to learn how to swim and engage in the water safely, as drowning is the number one cause of death in autism, and Florida leads the way in child drownings resulting in death. To ensure water safety is part of your child’s summer, enroll your child in swimming lessons, use caution when using flotation devices, keep all doors locked, including pool gates, and never leave your child unattended when near water.

Additional information and resources on water safety and drowning prevention can be found on the Autism Society of Florida website.

Access a financial voucher for swimming lessons through The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County.

Recreation Programs and Services:
Research proves that participation in recreational programs has shown extensive benefits for children with autism. It can reduce behavioral and emotional disorders, aid in developing social skills and forming relationships, enhance physical and mental health, and support the formation of children’s interests. Every week, The Els Center of Excellence offers seven recreational programs, including golf, kickball, and tennis, on campus to more than 100 individuals with autism. All fall rec schedule is being finalized, so check our website for updates.

To expand the recreation activities available at The Els Center of Excellence® campus and to provide individuals with autism with a full range of recreation choices, Els for Autism has launched a Capital Campaign to support funding a Gymnasium, Aquatic Center, Splash Pad, or other offerings at the Recreation Complex. The Aquatic Center will be a multipurpose facility to serve the needs of individuals with ASD, their families, and the community. In addition, the Ernie Els GameOn Autism® Aquatics program will be offered at the Aquatic Center to further ensure individuals with autism learn to swim and stay safe in the water. Support our Capital Campaign for the Recreation Complex – Els for Autism.

For more information on supporting positive behaviors and experiences in recreation activities, please watch Els for Autism E-TEAM Webinar: Supporting Positive Behavior in Recreation Settings presented by Hallie Mitchell – Canucks Autism Network.

Summer Tips for Sleep:

Summertime sleep routines are often challenging due to time out of school, work, and vacations. As sleep problems are very common, reportedly as high as 80 percent in children with ASD, it is crucial to establish good sleep hygiene and routines.  

Maintaining consistent bedtime routines and sleep hygiene help reduce daytime sleepiness, learning problems, and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and aggression (Autism Speaks, 2023), allowing for an individual to be more engaged, emotionally regulated, and attentive throughout the day.

Using dark curtains or black-out blinds, blocking out external noise with sound machines, and removing distractions like electronic devices are all beneficial to maintaining a good sleep routine.  

For information on best practices in sleep routines, please check out our E-TEAM Webinar: Sleep Supports and Strategies for Children with Autism and Related Disabilities, presented by Marissa Eck.

Community-based Sensory-Friendly & Inclusion Summer Experiences

Going out in the community may be difficult for some people on the spectrum due to their individual sensory needs. However, scheduling community outings in sensory-inclusive settings can enhance the experience an individual with ASD or another developmental disability has in the community. Things to consider when looking for a sensory-friendly community-based experience include but may not be limited to locations with reduced sound levels, limited to no flashing or strobe lights, minimal special effects, and spaces specifically designed for individuals with ASD to take a break. A few sensory-inclusive experiences to consider this summer include:

Sensory Saturdays
The Cox Science Center and Aquarium is open for special exploration hours the first Saturday of every month from 9 – 10 a.m., specifically designed for families affected by autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing or cognitive challenges, or other guests requiring assistance for disabilities.

Family Fun at Mounts Botanical Garden
From a giant outdoor fort and maze to towering moai statutes, a gorgeous butterfly garden, and the opportunity to feed the koi fish, MBG has much to offer youngsters – and the young at heart! Sensory backpacks are available at Mounts Botanical Garden to support children and families.

Sensory-Inclusive Performances | Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ sensory-inclusive performances are intended to create a welcoming and supportive environment for children and adults on the autism spectrum and individuals with other sensitivity issues or developmental disabilities.

Tips for Transitioning Into Adulthood over the Summer

For youth transitioning into adulthood, it’s an exciting time, but it can leave you with questions. Our Associate Director, Robin Jones, M.S., M.Ed, has tips for a successful transition into adulthood over the summer.