Alyssa Fisher, Assistant Program Director, Beverly Day Services
Over the past year, the Beverly day program staff have worked together in planning and opening the new Upward Program, which serves adults who have Autism but no Intellectual Disability. After lots of planning, development, research and construction, the Upward program opened in April.
With 16 people currently enrolled, this new program focuses on social skills, self-advocacy, daily living skills, and creative expressions. Because there is a growing need for support services for adults who have Autism without Intellectual Disability, we anticipate the program will have as many as 25 people enrolled by the end of the year.
To ensure the success of the Upwards program, some accommodations needed to be made first. Renovations were made to the Communitas Beverly Day Hab building, so that the Upward Program could have its own entrance and its own classroom space. While Upward and Beverly Day Hab share the kitchen and bathrooms spaces, many of the people in Upward don’t identify as having a disability, so we wanted to give them their own space as much as possible.
We also changed the schedule, with the majority of the planning responsibilities being done by the individuals rather than the staff. Vikki Kusumoto, the Upward Skills Instructor, is more of a mentor or facilitator than an instructor. She gives the Upward Program participants the room to explore what they want to learn about and supports them in achieving their goals.
Everyone has been surprised by how quickly the Upward program has grown. Communitas is exploring ways to expand Upward in order to continue to support this under-served population. The Burlington day program will be opening an Upward program when they move to their new location in January.