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 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. Sometimes we meet at the UMass Lowell south campus and sometimes we hang out somewhere else (e.g. movies, pizza, bowling, etc.). 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: 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 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?
When we have a meeting on campus 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.
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 membersí 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, particularly in offering various different programs.
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 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.
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell
113 Wilder Street, Suite 300
Lowell, MA 01854-3059
CHANGES MAY BE MADE TO THE SCHEDULE.
Wednesday 7th January. Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor.
Group Members and Parents/Guardians: New Years celebration – pot luck. Please bring food items and drinks to share with others.
Wednesday 4th 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 4th March 6.00-7.30pm. Panera Bread in Chelmsford (near Hannafords, Walmart, etc. on Drum Hill Road: Drum Hill Shopping Center, 66 Parkhurst Road, Chelmsford, MA 01824, 978-654-7986.
Group Members and Parent / Guardians: We will meet at Panera Bread in Chelmsford and hang out. In previous years some people have just got a drink, others have ordered dinner there, so whatever you prefer. Parents can sit together (in a different area of the restaurant from group members – no offense!).
Wednesday 1st April 6.00-8.00pm. MEETING TIME MAY START EARLIER DEPENDING ON MOVIE.
Location: UMass Lowell south campus, Weed Hall lecture theater 1.
Group Members and Parents / Guardians: UMass Lowell movie night and discussion for Disable the Label month. Movie to be decided but will be relevant to our Disability Awareness month at UMass Lowell.
Wednesday 6th 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 3rd June): 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 8th July (not first Wednesday of the month because of July 4th): 4.30-6.00pm.
Everyone: Ice-cream sundaes at Heritage Farm restaurant on Pawtucket Boulevard (they also do other food there, see: www.heritagefarmicecream.com for further details).
Wednesday 5th 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 2nd September: 6.00-7.30pm. Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor.
Group Members: Games Night. Please bring a group board game that you enjoy playing.
Parents/Guardians: Nataliya Poto from Autism/Asperger’s Network will visit with parents to discuss mentoring as well as services offered by AANE.
Wednesday 7th October Health and Social Sciences Building, 3rd floor, 6.00-7.30pm.
Everyone: Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, NH (www.pinballwizardarcade.com; 150 Bridge Street Unit P, Pelham NH).
Wednesday 4th November: 6.00-7.30pm.
Group Members: Discussion topics 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 2nd 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 Network program should contact Dr. Hillier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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