I got to connect with Jill Allen to talk about Brightstone Transitions, a residential transition program in Gainesville, GA. Brightstone focuses on supporting young adults ages 18-26 with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (level 1). With built-in scaffolding through a 3-phase system, Brightstone utilizes a coaching and mentorship model, where mentors live with residents in phase 1. This unique approach allows for organic and in-the-moment coaching, catching and addressing barriers to independence that might be otherwise lost. Additionally, Brightstone's model is community-integrated, utilizing the home and community as the "classrooms" for learning, shaping navigation, and advocacy in real-time. This process or IRL application is how Brigthstone helps residents achieve their fullest independence.
It's amazing how powerful language can be. Jill made a point of differentiating between the words "can't" vs. "won't," especially when we explored resistance, which is a normal part of any young adult's journey. Looking through the lens of "can't" immediately elicits understanding and support. However, believing that an individual's behavior is motivated by "won't," results in negative or punitive responses. This differentiation of mindset, especially when held by leadership and staff, creates a system of empowerment that is necessary for neurodiverse individuals to thrive.
Brightstone is no stranger to the world of transition and because of this, they know the importance of supporting parents, who are integral players in the young adult journey. Parents are directly and regularly supported through coaches and are an integral part of clarifying expectations and goal setting.
As long as hope (and a willingness to try and work) is present, Jill believes that success is inevitable. When staff, parents, and young adults have hope, everyone can build tolerance for the discomfort that is inevitable in growth and change. Jill sees hope as a foundational need...for all humans.
In line with hope, Brightstone is launching a non-profit arm, Brightstone Foundation, aimed at securing funds to provide long-term support for adults who need it. Anyone who is familiar with this tribe knows that some adults with autism will need life-long support, despite the best efforts of parents and programs. There is no fault or blame here, rather, this is a reality.
I've had several interactions with Jill and I'm always struck by her warmth and knowledge. Her unassuming and gentle approach always leaves me feeling more grounded. Check out our interview and get a sense of this for yourself. Thanks to Jill for spending time with me and for sharing Brightstone with all of you!
Find out more about Brighstone Transitions: http://brightstonetransitions.com/
You can also email Jill directly at [email protected]
For a copy of the full transcript of this interview, click here.