The Gersh Experience Provides Real-World Training for People with Autism

As awareness of autism grows around the world, new organizations are emerging to help understand and meet the needs of people living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

HeroX is currently working with one such group, Autism Speaks, on their House to Home Prize.

Another fascinating organization is the Gersh Experience, which provides education, coaching, and support for people with autism for practically every aspect of daily life. Located in Patchogue, New York, the Gersh Experience is designed for young adults who have received a high school diploma or the equivalent. It's a bit like a boarding school except that the students are taught about how to live in general, with the goal of letting them develop the skills they need to be independent and self-sustaining throughout their lives.

Students live in a community that is fully-equipped with the tools and resources they need, and have four main types of support: social, psychological, life skills, and educational. After going through the program, students are expected to not only have developed the skills to live independently, they will also be prepared to seek out a career or continue their education.

Since many people with autism do not go on to hold a job or receive more education after high school, this is the real benefit that the Gersh Experience offers: providing the necessary support structures to make normal life attainable, and then extending that positive influence throughout a person's entire life.

Each student will get their own customized program, designed to suit their particular attitude, pace, and learning style. If a student has no experience or a lot of experience with any aspect of life, their needs can be accommodated.

The program for every student will include the basics of living in modern society, covering basic self and home maintenance, preparing meals and grocery shopping, and managing finances. The housing situation provides students with access to public transportation, which they'll use and become familiar with. Help is provided for every step along the way, from developing a consistent and healthy morning routine to preparing for the next day. Education consists of both in-person coaching as well as more typical learning situations.

Students are also taken on field trips to experience the culture and nature in the area. Previous years have included trips to the Erie Canal, learning adventures at botanical gardens, and visits to historic sites like stops on the Underground Railroad.

Moving on from basic life skills, the Gersh Experience also teaches people how to excel in academics. Students are given academic support and tutors, and are taught critical thinking skills as well as how to manage their time and stay organized. And, very importantly, students are taught how to speak up for themselves and their own interests (as well as the interests of others).

When they are ready to move on, students have access to a number of post-secondary educational opportunities in New York. Some are community colleges, while others are state universities or private schools. There are also vocational training programs if students prefer to jump right into the work force.

For more information about the Gersh Experience, including how to apply, take a look at their website here.

The Gersh Experience is one of many organizations working to improve the lives of people with autism. Another fantastic advocacy group is Autism Speaks, a leading autism awareness and education foundation around the world, which HeroX has partnered with. If you've got some great ideas to help autistic people live better, more fulfilling lives, check out the Autism Speaks House to Home Prize.

We're looking for new ways to help people with autism live independently, in 3 separate categories: people who need 24/7 support, people who need daily support, and people who need weekly support. The best solution in each category will win $50,000. Check it out, your bright ideas could help!

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