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Interview with Jillian Allen, Brightstone Transitions

July 21, 2020

Dr. Gwen:         Hi, I'm Dr. Gwen. Welcome to my channel where I curate tools, share mindsets, and promote habits to help neurodiverse individuals thrive. If this is an interest to you, please consider subscribing to my channel.

                        In this video, I interview Jill Allen, Director of Business Development of Brightstone Transitions. Jill explains what Brightstone is and how they prepare young adults for independent living through a thoughtful three-phase community integrated model. We explore the importance of supporting parents during transition, and how setting clear and reasonable expectations that all parties are bought into is a key to success. Jill knocks it out of the park by ending the interview with the power of hope. So, make sure to stay to the very end.

                        Hi, Jill. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Jill:                   Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here and talking with you.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, great. Well, I can't wait for us to dive into what Brightstone Transitions is, but maybe what we can do is first start with you telling us about yourself.

Jill:                   Sure. So, I'm Jill, I'm the Director of Business Development here at Brightstone. And, I found my way here never really thinking that this is where I would end up in my career and in my life, and didn't really even know that this setting and help for young adults was even out there. And, so, I went to college, I'm from the Northeast, I went to college up there to be a High school History teacher. I was convinced I was going to go back to a big school where I went to school and coach sports and teach history, and all of that.

                        And then, I graduated right after the recession and there weren't many jobs out there. And, the first job I got was at a therapeutic boarding school in Connecticut. And, I was introduced to this whole new crowd of kids that in high school, I never knew existed. And, my mind was really opened up to this whole population that they had obstacles against them, they had barriers that they were working through, but they were eager and a pleasure to learn from. There was every diagnosis that you could think of, and I really took to the autism population. And again, in high school, we had a Special Ed group but they were really off to the side and I never really got to interact with them. And, I had no idea that there was just this wonderfully, just engaging, and special, special group of kids.

                        And so, as I started to work through there and became a behavior intervention at the school, the clients that I would connect the most with were those with autism. And then, I worked there for a couple of years and I did that I decided that I wanted to make Autism my focus. And so, I went up to Salt Lake City, Utah, never even visited before, and worked at a public charter school just for kids with autism and did behavior intervention out there. And, just knew that that was the place that I needed to be and had never really looked back on being a history teacher. And, by way, I have met my now husband and we ended up here in Georgia for his job. And, I had spent my career working with middle and high school kids and always hearing, and is very applicable. But always hearing "Early intervention," and "We've got to get them supports now," not realizing that there was it also a young adult population. And so, when I applied at Brightstone, Tim called me for my first phone interview and he started talking about, "Well, they're 18 to 24," and I was like, "I didn't even know," like, "Yes," like "Silly me, like what did I think these kids doing when they grew up?" And, not realizing that that was also incredibly vulnerable age range and I don't--

Dr. Gwen:         Yes.

Jill:                   --think many people think about what we do past high school. And, I think that that's sometimes the position that some of our families are and where they get. So, I've been with the company for a few years, I started as our Transition Coordinator working to transition young adults connect through our program and out onto their own. And then, my other passion, and I had done this before when I supervised a team, was also developing other leaders. And, I'm like, "If people could see how special these kids are, I could teach them and they're going to love them just like I do." And so, I became our Director of Staff Development here and wanted to give the opportunity, really that I look at that therapeutic boarding school that I started at with the education and the support and that whole experience starting off my career. I think it made me much stronger than I realized I learned way more than I thought was out there and I wanted to be able to give that back to our staff. And so, doing staff trainings and coaching them up. And then, just by nature of some different shifts at our organization, I've kind of fell into the admissions role, and Tim and Jason approached me and were like, "Hey, what do you think about stepping in and helping out here?" And, for me, I never wanted to do marketing, I never wanted to do sales, I'm not very good at putting myself out there. But then, I looked at it more as it's really easy to sell something that you wholeheartedly believe in and have worked in several facets of the program. And, I don't even view it as selling; I view it as letting these parents know that there is a resource for this age range that I think is otherwise forgotten about sometimes.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, I think when kids are in school all the way to high school, it's almost like we have a clear sense of what that linear timeline looks like. And, they're coming from these really supported programs, hopefully, where they're getting all the things that they need to get, hopefully. Whether it's speech, or OT, or tutoring, or Ed support, whatever that looks like. And then, all of a sudden, they graduate, and the world is at their feet. And so, a lot of professionals I've really referred to this as like the cliff, where they've come to this place, and "I'm not really ready yet." And, that's probably the case for many 18 to 24-year-olds, they're still trying to figure out who they are, what they want to do, but some just need some more time. A little bit more support and a little bit more time. So, that's awesome. Well, maybe what we can do now is get into what is Brightstone Transitions. Talk to us about your program.

Jill:                   Sure. So, we are a program located in Gainesville, Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta. And, our primary focus is working with young adults with autism, ages 18 to 26. We serve Autism Level 1, so formerly known as Asperger's. So, more of your higher-functioning and, like you were just saying, have had a lot of supports, and have been able to get through high school either at a therapeutic boarding school with a lot of supports in their public school, and then are on that cliff. And, like you said, that a lot of 18–year-olds really are, they're not sure what they necessarily want to do or how to go about doing that, and they need extra supports. And, I think, where our program differs, and I'll kind of get into the specifics of how we support them and what our model looks like. But really, where our program was birthed by Tim and Jason is that they were watching young adults come out of other pretty formal programs that had level systems and point systems. And, while those are really applicable for those younger ages, what was happening was the skills weren't being able to translate over to adulthood. And, there wasn't a lot of sustainability through those skills that they had learned to make it sustainable for them to live independently.

                        And so, our program, we consider ourselves a coaching and mentoring model, we have full-time staff members that live in the home in our first phase, and I'll walk you through the phases in a minute. But, they are right there in the moment providing coaching to our young adults and mentoring to them through all of these life challenges or barriers, whether it be job, or school, or daily living activities, social and emotional. And, they're right there in the moment giving them that feedback and helping find, as they get to know them on an individual level, what systems are going to be sustainable to move forward.

                        And so, the other thing that's unique about our program is that we consider ourselves a community-integrated model. And so, if you come and tour our program, you're going to see our houses. That's our program, and they're great houses. But we don't have classroom settings or model, like jobs or anything like that. We want to teach the young adults how to go and access resources in our community on their own. So, they live in the house, they have camaraderie with other guys in their house, or girls in their house, but they're simply just a house and then we push all of our supports out into the community.

                        And so, what that looks like for a young adult coming in is we have three phases, and the first phase, we call our mentor phase and it's probably our most intensive. And, the length of stay or the intensity depends, too, on what experience the young adult is coming in with. If they're coming from another therapeutic boarding school, they may have an edge with it when it comes to roommates and some of those systems and routines. Whereas, if they've been living with mom and dad and have graduated high school and maybe have been isolating in the basement for a long time which happens, the skill sets are going to look a little bit different.

                        But regardless, the young adults are going to come in and go to an incredibly supportive first phase, where there are six young adults in a home and five full-time staff members that are there to support that group. And so, there's always at least two on at a time, they live in the homes, they're right down the hall. And, what that does is it provides a lot of organic opportunities for those mentors to catch what some of those barriers might be to independents or to coach social skills in the moment. Or, say, "Hey, I notice that you're struggling with this routine," which something that's common amongst all young adults because they're not very good at self-monitoring and they don't realize that they're tripping up in certain areas.

                        And so, in that first phase, the mentors are working with the six young adults in the home. And again, we have two men's houses and one women's house in that first phase. And, they're focusing on kind of three main areas, and it's job or school. And, for those that are not sure about either, there's heavy volunteering helping them get used to systems, and routines, and feedback, and a schedule, so job or school.

                        Daily living skills: hygiene, cooking, cleaning. Our young adults, we give them a budget for their groceries, and they have to cook their own breakfast and lunch. And then, they cook one family meal per week and they eat family-style every night. And, when it's really a time for the house to come together, our mentors uses a time to gently prompt, "Hey, what's coming up for the next day? How was the day?" A lot of the houses will do certain goals for the week. One that's usually recurring is like not interrupting each other and working through conflict and they'll kind of revisit at night what that looks like. And then, the last piece that they really focus on in the house is the social-emotional support. And, we get the question a lot, "Well, do you have social skills groups?" I think families can be really used to that more formal training for their young adults and we don't, and we haven't found it effective is that being able to generalize those skills from those social skills groups, we do it really organically throughout the day. The mentors are right there walking through interactions in the kitchen or trying to figure out schedule. And so, being able to provide feedback to the young adults in the moment of, "Hey, I noticed this negative interaction here. What could we do better next time?" Or, "Hey, I overheard you on the phone with your parents and it wasn't the most positive phone call, how could we switch it?"

                        And so, that first phase is really working on healthy routines and a schedule that can be sustainable. And, it looks different for everyone. For some, three days a week is more than enough of a schedule, and they need that other time to come back and decompress. And then, we have others that come to us and they want to work full-time jobs and they're capable. And, we keep an eye out if are they experiencing burnout, are we noticing any behavioral shifts. And if they can handle it, then we're going to support them in that.

                        So, in that phase, those young adults get a schedule and a routine and make sure that there are healthy routines and hygiene, and cooking that all are falling into place. And then, the young adults themselves, when they feel ready, they're having conversations with the staff in their house. And, they're all managed by, I should mention, a case manager that oversees the entire house. And, that's a master's level case manager. A lot of times, our masters, they masters in social work, family therapy, and they're the ones that are doing long-term goal setting with the young adults. They also do parent coaching and parent feedback once a week with the families. We're very big on having the families a big part of the growth because it is a whole family. And, by the time we're working with young adults, the families have been through some pretty long journeys.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah.

Jill:                   And, some of that work that's going on in the first phase, too, and continuously is helping families, too. And, the case managers do all of this, that helping the families to recognize that it is a big shift from being the parent of a child. And, yes, it's still your child, but they're a young adult now. And so, how do you shift that mindset like, "You don't need to be the case manager anymore and let us be. Let us kind of help guide them and you be here as the parent." And that's really tough when you've spent their whole life having to be that advocating case manager. And so, there's some family work that still goes on in that first phase. And then, once we feel like there's sustainable routines and schedules that they're starting to manage, they actually petition and ask to go to our launch pad phase on their own. And, we have them fill out an application that usually inspires a lot of nerves and they think that they're really ready. And then, when the application is done, there's kind of that like, "Oh, no" moment of like, "Hey, this is a big step."

                        So, we do a very slow transition, and we start with just having them-- And, it's two blocks away, there's a community center, and then a mixture of houses and apartments that the young adults would move to and live in. without staff living in the homes anymore. So, that's probably the biggest shift. It's still a very intense and involved staff team because we want to make sure that the support carries over and it doesn't feel a significant drop in services. Or, quite frankly, they're starting a new program within the program. It's still the same program, the only difference is staff aren't living with them anymore in that second phase. And so instead, staff are doing rounds, and they're making sure that the foundation that was built in the first phase is able to be carried through now without that right-there support.

                        And, we know that that's easier said than done and there's going to be some hiccups and anxiety. But, the staff team at that launchpad is specifically structured where those three kind of main focus areas: the job and school, the daily living, and then the social-emotional activity, realms in the first phase. The staff at the launch pad, each have specific jobs to fulfill each of those areas so that as the young adult continues to maintain schedule and routine, the staff team meets and says, "Okay, job coach, they're stable, they like their job, they've been there a while, manager's supportive." "Job coach, you can slowly back out." With the daily living coordinator, they're great at cooking their meals, the apartment's clean, you can slowly back out because the goal is that then, they'll move to our third phase, our independent living supports, which is an apartment ideally on their own, maybe with a roommate, in which they're then coming and seeking out support from us.

                        So, over time, really, what we're looking for is more of that self-advocacy. We're shifting the focus from a staff-led approach to more of the clients, but with a very thoughtful and mindful release of support so that it's not, our young adults don't do well with transition.

                        And, also we have noticed as we've continued to grow through to Phase 3, that some are really set on and have had the experience of, "I graduate one program, I go to the next," and it's our goal that we're the last program they ever go to. And, that we back ourselves out in a way that feels natural and organic, and that they can look around and be, "Oh, okay. Well, I have my life here."

                        And, 50% of our young adults end up staying in Gainesville. It's an affordable place to live, the city itself has jobs, and shops, and a very small public transit, it's not overwhelming for them. And, I think that they've slowly built this life that a lot of them, previously, probably thought that they wouldn't, or have always thought we've had young adults say, "Oh, I just always thought I'd go back and live with my parents and I didn't realize that I didn't have to." We're like, "No, you don't." And, we have a great alumni network here with several young adults that have settled and found apartments, couldn't wait to be done here, but then, went and found apartments two blocks away and have come back for job coaching or, "Hey, it's time to get off my parents' health insurance," or, "It's my first time to file taxes," and continue to use that support. And, we'll probably be lifelong and will always need that support, and we're great with that. And, even some of them have come back in more mentor capacity for some of the newer clients to us, which has been really helpful I think to be able to see success of people that have gone through the program.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah because it's easier to do what you see. When you can see it happen, that gives it a real tangible feel which is so lovely. There's a piece of your program that I would love to highlight because in transition, something, maybe a pain point that I probably experience as a professional who's looking at a laser-focused in this transition area, is that parents are not supported enough in the transition. For many parents, this was and has been their primary job, which was to advocate, support, and accommodate their child who is now an adult. But that--we just expect parents to just deal with letting go, like, "Oh, just let go," and like, "You just need to let go." And, when they understand the program, and you just lay this out so beautifully, these phases, how do you move from phase to phase? What are the things that we want to be seeing? How are they supported to do these things? When a parent knows that, they can then let go. And, that's something that just needs to be acknowledged consistently. So, I love that that's in your first phase, is this parent coaching phase. Yeah, it's lovely.

Jill:                   Yeah, and, actually, we have a parent coach that we contract with as well. So, our case managers are doing the weekly updates and a lot of what they do is that parent coaching piece. Because while they're giving updates, our parents, as they've had these long journeys, sometimes very much struggle with the activities that go into independent living. I think, it's sometimes tough to be tangible, and don't see sometimes the man-hours that go into working with a young adult in the spectrum to just find a healthy morning routine that's going to be sustainable. That can happen every single morning. Or, how do you create a healthy meal plan with someone that's grown up with a cafeteria in their programs and never had to cook for themselves? And so, I think sometimes these tangibles can be really tough for parents at the beginning. And, they're also facing like, "Hey, I need to let my son or daughter, it's kind of sink or swim time." And so, yeah, those case managers are having the conversations and trying to link it back with the specific activities that they're doing, and really showing like, "So, it may not seem important to you, or you may feel like, hey, they need to have that job for it to seem like the program's working or be in school for x many hours." And so, there's a lot of conversation and coaching that goes into that.

                        And then, we also have the parent coach that we contract with, that every family, when they come to us, gets four sessions upfront with the parent coach and they can space them out how they feel comfortable. But really, again, the main focus that she works with is you're now the parent of a young adult and there's going to be trials, there's going to be tribulations, there's going to be what you may view as "failures," and how do we shift our mindset to think, "Hey, every young adult, diagnosis or not, stumbles." And, I've had conversations with parents before where their young adult has gotten their first paycheck and they've blown it all on video games. And I'm like, "When I got my first one, I'm sure that I bought a pair of shoes I couldn't afford." And, it just happens and everybody has to walk through that. And, while I understand it's a tough journey when you're having to be that advocate and that force and how do we find that balance to then realign that relationship, that has to happen for a healthy relationship moving forward.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, and, it is that concept of the dignity of risk, to allow these young people the ability to take some risks so that they can learn through experience. And, maybe if the parent understands, "Hey, they're in an attentive, thoughtful support system, so it's not going-- The blowing of the one paycheck isn't going to be blowing every single paycheck after that point." So, it's this allowing some bumps and bruises, and knowing it's not life-threatening, and that they're going to be supported, they're going to be caught, they're not going to fall flat on their face. And, even if they are, you'll help them, you'll help pick them right back up again.

Jill:                   Right. Exactly.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, I love it. There is a really cool motto on your site, that's "Independence through application." And, it's a neat idea because it really is through application and experience, that's what really builds skills, it's what really builds confidence. And so, it's really cool that you have this community pushing, where we're really living life here with a mentor in that first phase, really working out the kinks, and getting you on a system and a schedule that you can sustain, is super cool. I love this kind of step down phase model. It's so lovely and it's clear. I think that's what's so-- It's great because I can understand it, and I'm hoping other people can understand that as well. Very cool, Jill. What do you hope-- If we back up and we think, what for you would be the picture of a Brightstone "graduate?" So, what it sounds to me is-- It doesn't sound like there's necessarily a time limit at Brightstone, right?

Jill:                   Yeah, not necessarily, everyone works at their own pace. And, we have some that, again, it depends a little bit on the experience of what they're coming in with, too. But, they can go through the first phase and around nine to 12 months. Some, it's taken a lot longer, and there weren't a lot of foundational skills to build off of it. And, I would say, our average length of stay, if there was an average and they're all very different is about 18 to 24 months. But, what we've started to notice, too, is that we've got a young adult group here that despite their best efforts and ours will likely always need some sort of mentor support. And so, we can say our ideal is in that first three phases 18 to 24 months, and there is a group that is going to need some sort of either check-in.

                        So, we're actually in the process of establishing an offshoot of that third phase that we would call our Brightstone Foundation. And, it would be a non-profit section, so that when clients actually come through our program and exhibit that need, we can service them longer-term without losing the quality of our supports in our systems. And more importantly, without bankrupting our families, because we are private pay, and it can be a lot. And, some of our families have been through a lot and so figuring out in that third phase, who can be independent. And, I apologize, I think your original question was "What does it look like when they graduate?" and I would say that the ideal graduate of ours, they're in an apartment, either on their own or with a roommate. And, like I said, Gainesville is really affordable and a lot of them have settled in the area. They either have a job, or finishing up school, and that they have those healthy routines that are keeping them healthy and on the right track. So, they're taking their meds on their own, they're not ordering in pizza every night, they're still following the systems and meal plans. And say, we were to pop in, there would be some settlements of the routines that we put in place. And, that is really common with a lot of our young adults that have graduated, we'll go in and they'll still have their chore chart, or the alarms on their phones to take meds, and they learn everything from the bus system with us, how to access the social security office that's down the street. And, they know where those community resources are in the area.

                        And, the reason why we have that phrase, the "Independence through application" is, because through their time, they've learned to access those resources and even though they maybe hadn't used them frequently, they at least know how to go about making a doctor's appointment or that service. But, that's the ideal graduate. And then, again, like I said, what we're realizing is and it's through no fault of the young adult or our own, but there might always be some support that's going to be needed. And so, our foundation is meant for those that are in apartments with roommates and our staff still need to go and do check-ins with for a longer period of time.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, and that makes sense to me because everyone still needs support on some level. And so, that's okay, I think, as long as you go, "Wow, this is just one of those pressure points that needs to get supported on a regular basis even after the program." That's ultimately going to be-- The system of checks and balances to make sure that that individual is healthy, and they're meeting all of their basic needs in a healthy way. So, I say healthy way because, yes, they could feed themselves, but sometimes we don't know what they might feed themselves with. So, it's kind of those checks.

Jill:                   Well, it wouldn't be successful for us whether they choose to stay here or go home, to regress. And, to not have a schedule and even those that choose to transition want to live closer to families, we want to make sure that whatever the life what is here that it's able to and we do a lot of charge plan phase two, phase three case managers of, "Okay, what does living look like? Because if you go back and live back with your parents and don't have a job and don't have supports, all this was for not." And, it's a lot of time, you've learned a lot of great skills here and how do we make sure that it's sustainable even outside of here.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, because we don't-- if you're teaching them all of these skills to be independent, going back home, and then, reverting back into just being dependent, completely on the home system, really does not serve any justice to all the time, all the money, resources, emotions, that were spent in your program.

Jill:                   Yes.

Dr. Gwen:         Got it, got it. So, Jill, when do clients or families reach out to you? Maybe another way to think about this is, what are the pain points or those pressure points that you feel Brightstone addresses, if you will?

Jill:                   Sure. So, I think, the times in which families come to us, we've seen it all where, I would say, they typically come from a couple of different places either at a therapeutic boarding school. And, they've gotten the recommendation of the school that with all that support, that the next step for them on that cliff is that they come and get some independent living skills. Well, the school's focused on academics and likely behavioral that it's time to get some independent living skills. Or, some have come from wilderness programs, and I would say the families that are a little bit more in crisis would be the ones that, and I should caveat that with we don't have young adults that come to us with active suicidal or homicidal ideations, no active substance abuse crisis for our families.

                        And, when they come into those phases are those that are really stuck. And, the isolation maybe has become so great that, "We're not sure how to get out of mom and dad's basement," "We're unwilling to try to get a job." And so, those would be more of the crisis families for some in the therapeutic setting or wilderness setting, it's a natural step that's been coached by the current providers that have said, "Okay, we've got a handle on behavioral, and now, let's go learn these skills." But the crisis families that come to us with a little bit faster timelines or looking at more emergency supports are, "Hey, we're stuck, and we're in our basement, and we're not eating, we're not interacting…" And, I think that the commonalities amongst those are, "Hey, I did okay in high school with all those supports and I had some friends in this group," or, "Quite honestly, I didn't have friends and now I've graduated high school and I have nothing to wake up and get out of bed for, and I don't have that system." And, our kids are so about routine and structure and that's like their safety and control and when that ends for them, their program or their high school, what happens?

                        And, conversely, we also get a handful of them that have come from are really incredibly smart, but it's the executive functioning skills and social skills that might hold them back. And, have academically qualified to go to college, and have tried some big universities, and it was overwhelming for them. And, it was too much, and it caused complete shutdown. And so, we've got some young adults who, I think, who would view it as a failure and come to us with a really shattered sense of ego. And, they're so, so capable and can definitely do it with the right supports and do have a lot of success here because what we always say and we tell parents is, no matter what that background was, if they're willing to do the work, and they want to come here, we can work with everything else.

                        So, as long as they have that motivation and that desire to want to do better, and we always tell them when we talk with them because we talk with them through the admissions process, and we want their buy-in and we say that everybody wants to come here. And that doesn't mean that every day they wake up and they're like, "Yes, I'm at Brightstone, I'm in a program." But, they have to want to do better and we can work with that all day long.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, and I think you just answered my next question, which is that idea of you guys knowing very clearly the type of individual you can help thrive. The question is what is that in-the-pocket client that's perfect, bespoke for Brightstone? It's almost like, when that client comes to you, plus your program, that's really where both the program and that individual shine, because it's the meeting of those two things. So, would you say that your in-the-pocket client really is that one that's, "Hey, I'm willing to do the work here." Is there anything else?

Jill:                   Yeah, and I think that some of them don't even know that they're willing to when they come along with it because they know, again, they're in that program pattern and like, "Okay, it's another program," or, "My parents said I had to." And, even the ones that haven't experienced what they would consider those bigger failures, there's that sense of drive that they want to do better. And, again, some of them, I don't think even know that they do. One of the heavy coaching pieces that we do with our staff when we do experience resistance, and at some point, all of our clients give us resistance in some area, whether we're encouraging them to get out and go do a social group or we're encouraging them to go get a job or whatever it is, engage with people in the house. We experience resistance at some point with everybody, but we encourage our mentors to look at things as a, "They just can't do, not a won't do."

                        Because I think depending on the history by the time some of them come to us, although they may not be, again, like showing up here with confetti and rolling out the red carpet, obviously for them to come here, there's a desire to want to do better and so we have to find out what that is and what that motivation is. But, I think, as far as kind of what our typical or our picture-perfect client is and what would be, I guess, like on our poster, would be Autism, Level 1. But, even if they don't have the diagnosis and some of our young adults don't, but the presentation of they're usually described as the quirky, socially awkward, lack of executive functioning, would misplace everything and have tried some other step towards independence, and have struggled or struggled to see what those initial steps would have to be independent. And then, the parent involvement is huge as well.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, and what are your expectations for parents in the program? What are you expecting them to do in the program?

Jill:                   So, I think that the biggest things are the communication with us. We ask for the weekly communication, but what we're really asking for-- We don't want them to just show up on a call, we want them to engage with us, they're the experts on their child. And so, being able to work with us and really partner with us on what if this plan is going to work, how can we all be bought in to support this young adult.

                        And, I think that's where the second one would be the buy-in. It can be really scary and, like I mentioned earlier, that it's tough to have those tangible independent living skills. They don't sometimes see the work that goes into. And, we know with autism, you have to repeat the routines and the conversations and all of that, and that can be tough to manage. But, I think the parent buy-in to see the value in walking through these steps, because I think sometimes the parents want, and from a lot of our young adults' perspective, they're from high achieving families, and they want to keep up. And sometimes, the value sets versus what, I think, I could phrase it more, I guess as expectation management of what the young adult, where they're at, and having the parents recognize that and partner with us. Because the minute, especially for the young adults that might start to face some adversity and have for them their safety zone is to quit, if a parent isn't fully bought in and echoing the same sentiments that we have, and encouraging the same ways that we are and helping us game plan or being bought into whatever the game plan is, the young adults can pick up on that. And then, for them especially those that do have a pattern of quitting when it gets tough, and building up that threshold for discomfort, or working through the dignity to fail like you said, having the parents bought in and not giving them just that exit strategy is really important because they have to learn how to work through tough times.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, it's almost not offering the bailout, the bailout's not available. I love this concept of expectation management. Because in order for us to set expectations that are reasonable, we have to see and accept the young adult for where they are at that time. And, I think that can be a very challenging thing, it's one of those things that sounds really simple but it's not always easy. And, I think that going back to you saying, sometimes, they don't even know. I think what helps with that is the formality of the process. When you have a formal process that can help usher or ask the right questions, that can oftentimes help someone think about life in a different way, or maybe even change the narrative for them. And so, that is really great.

                        I really do love that you work with the parent because it's an incredible piece to support. Like I said, I think sometimes we expect too much of parents, we expect that parents are just going to be okay with whatever and handing things over and being like, "See you later." Very opposite, actually. Parents are going to really want to be in the weeds a lot of times. And so, to be able to clarify expectations to maybe see things more reasonably, in a more balanced way may be, that also helps I think the young adult feel through the messaging that their parents believe that they're capable. Because if we're always supporting and we're always accommodating, and it's all or nothing, versus, this very scaffolded approach that you guys have, there's a very clear scaffolding to me. Then, we tell young adults, "Oh, well, we don't really think you can do it which is why you need all these support," versus, "No, you just don't know how to do it yet."

Jill:                   Right.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, and so, "Let's hope you do that and let's throw it at the wall, supports you and see what happens." And, we might have to throw it against the wall a few times, but we typically are pleasantly surprised because--

Jill:                   Absolutely.

Dr. Gwen:         --there's so much beautiful achievement. So, I love this process. So, that's hard, separating outcome, product from process. You guys are really good at really thinking about, "Oh, what is this process of facilitating autonomy?" which is so great. Jill, how do people typically access your service? Meaning, how do they typically pay for it? I think you said, the main funding stream right now is private pay?

Jill:                   Yes, ma'am. We're private pay, and the expectation throughout the programming is that as that Phase 2 transition to Phase 3, and our mentors, and our support staff slowly back out, that our tuition will reflect more appropriately the services that the young adult is receiving, and then should they work through those three phases and beating that the family decides, "Hey, they're probably always going to need some support," the idea is that the foundation that we are at our final stages of finally putting in place will that we can provide some much more reduced tuition support that way, do some fundraising and that kind of thing.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, is there any opportunity-- And, I'm not really sure what happens in Georgia. Here in California, we have a regional center which provides some funds for individuals with disabilities or qualified disabilities. In Georgia, is there anything like that for your young adults to access?

Jill:                   We have not had much success with that. Some parents individually have attempted to submit to insurance. And, we are happy to provide parents with any cost breakdown, we've written letters supporting mentoring out. It's typically not because it's the age, I guess, and if they're traveling from out of state. Some parents have not had the biggest success with that, but we're always willing to have a conversation of what support and tuition might look like relative to the specific needs of a client.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, which makes sense. The higher the level of need, the higher that cost would be, because there's more need and more supports that are necessary. Got it, got it. Well, Jill, I always end my interviews with this one question which is, if you could only choose one skill to empower an individual with, what would it be and why?

Jill:                   Like a hard skill or like-- Because I would say, hope. And, I don't know if that's a real answer but we know that hope is the biggest indicator of success. And, our young adults, if they don't have it in themselves if they don't have it from their families, if they don't have it from us, and they don't believe that anybody else has it in them, they're not going to feel what's the value and what's the purpose in doing that. And, we have worked with some young adults who don't feel that, and wonder, "Well, why am I doing this?." And, if they could just have hope in themselves and the families can hope in them, and it can shine through even in some of the tough times, I think that that is such a foundational need. And, I don't know if it's a skill, but more of a need to be able to progress through being a young adult regardless of diagnosis is hard. And, there's a lot of trials and tribulations I think everybody's gone through, poor relationships, or budgeting, or whatever. And, if there's just that hope that, "Hey, regardless of my diagnosis, I've got this team of people and I can do this." We can work to get them wherever they need to go.

Dr. Gwen:         Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. Okay. Good. Awesome. That's so good. I love that. I'm always fascinated with what people come up with as the skill and they're all good. I mean, they're all just so good. Okay. So, Jill, if someone wanted to get a hold of you or find out more about Brightstone, how would they do that?

Jill:                   So, our website is www.BrightstoneTransitions.com, and on that website, if you go to Contact Us, you can send me an email or you can email me directly at [email protected]

Dr. Gwen:         So good. I'll include all of that information in the links in the description below. So, just in case anyone missed it, don't worry it'll be down below. Anyway, thanks, Jill, so much for sharing this wonderful program.

Jill:                   Of course, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure.

Dr. Gwen:         Thanks for watching. If you're interested in finding out more about Brightstone Transitions, contact Jill. Her information and links to my website where I share additional impressions about this interview is in the description below. Also, if you've got any value from this interview, please hit that Like button and subscribe to this channel. Doing so helps to get this information to others just like you. And, hey, if there's a topic you want to know more about, share it in the comments below. See you in the next video, and thanks for watching.



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