The Program Creating a Community for those with Autism

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    Community Resource: Autism Personal Coach

    Having a community is one of the most important aspects of life because it creates a sense of belonging and support in your environment. The coaches at Autism Personal Coach are developing and providing a community for individuals with autism in the Cleveland area.

    The founder of Autism Personal Coach, Doug Blecher, started the business five years ago because he saw a lack of continuous support for the autistic community. He previously facilitated a support group for those with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism, where they would meet each month and come up with strategies for the members. However, the next month people would come back without improvement from the month prior. Doug thought, “If I could just work with some of these individuals away from the group, then we could make some progress.”

    Helping Others Achieve Their Full Potential

    Doug founded Autism Personal Coach to give people with autism every chance to achieve their potential. The coaches meet with individuals once a week and discuss goals, what’s working and what isn’t working. The coaches teach their clients skills and will go to the environment where they will use that skill, whether it is at work or in the community to get involved or develop friendships. Additionally, the organization saw that many individuals were isolated and started hosting social events and groups in the community. These include: monthly adult support groups, dinners, board game nights, volunteer opportunities, and now a mindfulness group to reduce anxiety.

    Many times those with autism come to Autism Personal Coach hoping to find employment in the community. Doug advises business owners to simply be open to having employment conversations with these individuals. Even if there isn’t a job available, businesses could even provide a volunteer opportunity a few hours a week. Getting their foot in the door is really hard. “It just takes one person,” says Doug. It’s beneficial for them to have “the opportunity to volunteer somewhere to get experience, and even have that reference from.”

    Autism Personal Coach is located in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. In Cleveland, there are around 40 clients to five coaches. There are an additional 50 to 100 individuals who attend the social events held each month.

    Support Systems

    What many people don’t realize is that when you first meet someone with autism, you may not even realize they are autistic. An important thing to remember is not to assume the worst about the individual. They process information differently and may not pick up on body language. Be patient and give as much visual support as possible to help explain what you are trying to communicate.

    Doug leaves off with a piece of advice for individuals with autism and their families. The most important thing for families is “finding support and knowing you don’t have to do this alone.” Autism Personal Coach is one of those support systems. “Individuals with autism need a coach,” and they can find that right here in Cleveland.

    Lyndhurst, Ohio, (216) 336-5889,