Oh, let's also add empowered and confident. These words were heard, on repeat, during my interview with Alex Johnson, Admissions and Business Development Director of Scenicview Academy (SVA).
SVA is a non-profit school for young adults (18-30yo) with Autism Spectrum and learning disorders. School at SVA doesn't look like your typical or traditional school. Classes are thoughtfully designed and crafted to meet the needs of each student and are conducted IRL in the community. SVA's learning philosophy is that experience is the best teacher, so students hit the ground running immediately with immersion and practice.
Students don't have to be intimidated by the real-life pace or demands of the SVA program because of high staff ratios (fun fact: staff outnumbers students) and a dedicated Service Coordinator and Therapist, who are assigned to every student as part of their treatment team. Support staff are considered mentors and coaches to the students, allowing for age-appropriate and responsive guidance, shaping, and encouragement.
In my over 2 decades of supporting neurodiverse individuals, I've created a shorthand of the most effective levers (interventions, skills, supports) that give the biggest return on investment. So, it completely thrilled me to hear that SVA prioritizes personalizing schedules while routinizing healthy habits. When an individual can determine the right schedule AND follow it, independence, autonomy, and empowerment are inevitable. For any person.
Choice rocks. I'm not talking about choosing between an Americano or Cappuccino (though, Americano every time). Rather, I'm talking about what confidence does for shaping self-narratives and our tolerance for taking risks, which are inherent in living our best lives. When we can trust ourselves, believe that we can face any problem that life throws at us, and know when and how to ask for help, we are in the driver's seat of our lives. We get to choose, and thus create, what we want our lives to be.
Helping adults with disabilities discover their confidence requires a mean game of balancing risk and safety, and balancing risk and safety requires thoughtfulness, creativity, and constant attention. With SVA's organizational structure and high-staff ratio, they can facilitate this process by providing what Alex calls, "invisible structure." Rather than taking the easy route with shaping complex skills like internet safety/citizenship and dating, SVA creates individualized programs that help simulate the real world with guide rails that allow for choice.
SVA is a non-profit organization. Services are private pay, but ALL students are awarded a scholarship based on what they can afford to pay. This financial model increases accessibility and allows more students, especially ones that have awareness of what they need and the motivation to work to close their personal gaps, to obtain a comprehensive service that can launch them towards their most independent life. In all of my years of supporting this tribe, I've never encountered a program with a financial model like this.
Not only is SVA one of kind, so is Alex. His knowledge, experience, and friendly personality put me right at ease. We could've gone completely off the rails and talk about lots of other fun topics, including his clinical interest in men's health and psychology. Alex has promised me that we'll get to talk again. I'm going to hold him to it.
If you are interested in learning more about SVA, check out my interview with Alex 👇🏼.
Check out Scenicview Academy's website for more information: https://www.svacademy.org/
For a copy of the transcript of this interview, click here.