The Network: A Monthly Social Networking Program for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.

 

The Network: Brief Overview.

The Network is a monthly social networking program for high functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum (e.g. Asperger's syndrome) aged between 16-30 years. The Network takes place once a month on a Wednesday (usually the first Wednesday of the month) from 6.00-7.30pm at UMass Lowell south campus. There is a $75 annual fee to participate in The Network. This fee also covers the parent group which meets at the same time and place (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee). Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is the Program Director and a Psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The Network includes an online discussion group for Network members and a separate discussion group for parents.

The Network also includes a monthly Newsletter which updates members on upcoming events, news, and reminds members about the upcoming Network meeting.

Click here to see the Network brochure.

  

The Network: Frequently Asked Questions.

 

1)      When and where are The Network meetings?

The Network meetings take place once a month from 6.00-7.30pm, usually on the first Wednesday of the month. Some meetings take place on UMass Lowell south campus and some are off-campus such as going for pizza, going to the movies, etc. You will receive a schedule of Network meeting events for the year so you will know what is coming up.

 

2)      What are the main aims of The Network program?

a) To provide a comfortable environment for group members to meet and make friends with one another. Ideally, people in the group will arrange to meet up outside of The Network and form lasting and rewarding friendships.

b) To provide an opportunity for group members to practice social and communication skills in a relaxed and comfortable setting including.

c)      To learn more about social and vocational skills, and becoming more independent, through group discussions

and presentations. Topics may include employment, going to college, financial independence, living a healthy

lifestyle, stress and relaxation etc.

d)      TO HAVE FUN!!

 

3)      Who is eligible for The Network?

The Network is for high functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum (e.g. Asperger’s syndrome) who are aged between 16 and 30 years, and their parents / guardians. Participants must provide proof of diagnosis to participate in The Network (e.g. a recent neuropsychological report, letter from psychiatrist / psychologist etc.).

 

4)      Should I attend The Network every month?

It is important to attend The Network as often as possible in order to increase your likelihood of making friends with others in the group, and to enhance your learning of social and communication skills. Sometimes you may find a particular meeting more enjoyable than others depending on what activities you like doing.

 

5)      How much does it cost to participate in The Network?

There is an annual fee of $75 to be a member of The Network. This fee also covers the parent group (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee). Also, sometimes when we are off-campus you may need to bring some money with you. If we go for pizza, or need to buy a ticket for a sports game etc., then you will need money for that and perhaps some spending money too. When we are on campus we ask that members bring a snack item with them to share with the rest of the group. This might be a bottle of soda or juice, chips, cookies, fruit etc.

 

6)      Should I bring anything with me to The Network meetings?

Participants are requested to bring a snack item to share with the other group members. This might be a bottle of soda, water, cookies, chips, fruit etc. The Network staff provide cups, plates, napkins, and ice.

 

7)      Do parents / guardians attend The Network meetings?

Parents / guardians have their own separate parent group which takes place at the same time as the group members’ meetings (once a month 6.00-7.30pm, usually first Wednesday of the month). The $75 fee also covers the parent group.

 

8)      Who runs The Network program?

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is the Program Director and a Psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Hillier has spent many years working with adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum and currently runs a number of other programs including the “SoundScape” music program, “Horizons" college preparation mentoring program, and a Movie Club. Further information about these other programs, as well as Dr. Hillier’s resume, can be found on other pages of this website: http://faculty.uml.edu/ahillier

In addition, UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students are involved in The Network. These students provide excellent role models for those in the program. Many of the students intend to move in to professional positions working with people on the autism spectrum when they graduate. Therefore, The Network provides an extremely important opportunity for them to gain experience and the skills they will need to be effective and successful professionals. Students participate for course credit, or as volunteers. Please see the section below on volunteer opportunities for more information.

 

9)      What other benefits does The Network offer?

 

The Network also includes an online discussion group for group members and a separate email group for parents.

 

The Network also includes a monthly Newsletter which updates members on upcoming events, news, and reminds members about the upcoming Network meeting. The Newsletter is sent by email about 10 days and then 2 days before the upcoming Network meeting.

 

10) What is the next step for joining The Network?

 

You can complete an Enrollment Form. This form can either be emailed or mailed to Dr. Hillier (contact information below). Dr. Hillier will then review the enrollment and if it seems like you / your son / daughter is a good match for The Network she will contact you with further details. You must also mail your proof of diagnosis with the enrollment form (e.g. recent neuropsychological report, letter from psychiatrist / psychologist, etc.).

 

Contact Dr. Hillier at:

 

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Massachusetts Lowell

1 Mahoney Hall

870 Broadway Street

Lowell, MA 01851

Phone: 978-934-2930

Email: ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu

 

 

THE NETWORK MONTHLY SCHEDULE 2014

 

CHANGES MAY BE MADE TO THE SCHEDULE.

 

Wednesday 8th January. Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor (not first Wednesday of the month as Ashleigh is out of town). 6.00-7.30pm.

Group Members and Parents/Guardians: New Years celebration – pot luck. Please bring food items and drinks to share with others.

 

Wednesday 5th February. (probably a different time and not our usual 6-7.30pm. Closer to the time we will vote on a movie and then I will let you know the exact meeting time)

Group Members: Movie Night at Chunky’s in Pelham: 150 Bridget Street, Pelham, NH 03076; 603-635-7499; http://www.chunkys.com Chunky’s is fun because you can order food and drink right at your seats like a restaurant, and you sit at a table to watch the movie. They have a full menu, see website for further details. Alternatively we may go to the Showcase theater  in Lowell depending on what is playing at each theater and what people vote to see.

Parents/Guardians: Parents/Guardians are also welcome to go to the movie (but sit in a different area).

 

Wednesday 5th March 6.00-7.30pm.

Group Members: Pool and videogames in McGauvran student center on south campus.

Parents/Guardians: Parents can come to McGauvran too, and perhaps sit in the Subway area adjacent to the pool table and videogame area.

 

Wednesday 9th April 6.00-7.30pm.

Group Members: Dinner at Five Guys restaurant on Drum Hill Road in Chelmsford. Please bring money if you want to order food / drink.

Parents/Guardians: Parents are welcome to come too (but sit in a different area).

 

Wednesday 7th May 6.00-7.30pm.

Group Members: Pizza Night at Papa Ginos. 21 Wood Street, Middlesex Plaza, Lowell, 01851 (5 mins from south campus). Please bring $5 to put towards pizzas we will share (if you don’t like pizza then you can just order something else. Visit their website to see menu: www.papaginos.com).

Parents/Guardians: Parents are welcome to come too (but sit in a different area).

 

Wednesday 11th June: Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor, 6.00-7.30pm (not first Wednesday of the month as Ashleigh is out of town).

Group Members: Games Night. Please bring a group board game that you enjoy playing.

Parents/Guardians: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources.

 

Wednesday 9th July (not first Wednesday of the month because of July 4th): 4.30-6.00pm.

Everyone: Bowling at Brunswick Bowling Lanes in Lowell (647 Pawtucket Boulevard, Lowell, MA 01854, close to campus, across the river at Rourke Bridge). This will be an earlier session because the games are cheaper ($1.99 per game plus $3.50 shoe rental). Please bring enough money to play three games, for shoe rental, and for refreshments.

 

 

Wednesday 6th August: 6.00-7.30pm

Everyone: Summer Celebration Annual Picnic. Please bring food and drinks to share with everyone. Picnic takes place along the river across from south campus. Further details will follow.

 

Wednesday 3rd September: 6.00-7.30pm

Everyone: Ice-cream sundaes at Heritage Farm restaurant on Pawtucket Boulevard (they also do other food there, see: www.heritagefarmicecream.com for further details), followed by walk along the river.

 

Wednesday 1st October Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor, 6.00-7.30pm.

Group Members: Presentation topic to be chosen by group members. Examples: Employment / College / Independent Living / Leadership Skills / Relationships / Stress Management / Time Management / Financial Independence.

Parents/Guardians: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources.

 

Wednesday 5th November: 6.00-7.30pm.

Everyone: Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, NH (www.pinballwizardarcade.com; 150 Bridge Street Unit P, Pelham NH).

 

Wednesday 3rd December. 6.00-7.30pm

Group Members: Holiday Shopping at Pheasant Lane Mall.

Parents/Guardians: Drop off and pick up son / daughter by the main entrance by Bank of America. Perhaps parents could arrange to meet together at one of the restaurants by the mall.

 

 

The Network: Volunteer Opportunities

Students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who are interested in getting involved in the Aspirations program should contact Dr. Hillier at ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu.

 

The Network: How to Make a Donation

Donations are helpful to maintain and enhance The Network program. Monetary donations can be made by writing a check to: University of Massachusetts at Lowell - The Network Program, and mailing it to: Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Psychology Department, 113 Wilder Street, Suite 300, Lowell, MA 01854-3059.  A letter of acknowledgement and appreciation will be issued by the University for donations that are made to The Network program.  The acknowledgement letter can be used as a receipt when filing taxes.

 

Dr. Hillier's Home Page