Social group, SPECTRUM, hangs out online. Photo courtesy SPECTRUM Facebook page.
The JEVS Independence Network is a community of individuals who live independently. And, along with family members and/or advocates, work with staff to set their own goals, and identify interests and needs.
Meet Meaghan, a thirty-something-year-old member of the JEVS Independence Network of New Jersey, and leader of the young adult, and teen, social groups for individuals living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other neurodivergent disability, known as SPECTRUM. Meaghan has a BS in Elementary Education and Special Education, and identifies as an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome.
With 55 adult members and a growing tally of 20 teen members, the mission of the group is simple: It is our hope that all of our members will be able to socialize with and learn from each other, all while having tons of fun!
With topics like ‘Robin Williams Films’ for Movie Club, virtual events have been held daily, sometimes more, to adjust for socializing online. While restrictions caused by the pandemic begin to ease, the anticipation of returning to in-person get-togethers is escalating.
As the ten year anniversary of SPECTRUM approaches, Meaghan contemplates how to mark the occasion. “Prior to the pandemic, we would go to Atlantic City once a year, or Philadelphia. We’ve gone bowling, and to the movies. We work hard to cater to what they want to do”.
Individuals can access the SPECTRUM Social Group Facebook page where upcoming events are posted, and where members are encouraged to post suggestions for activities.
When asked about the impact of Meaghan’s work with SPECTRUM, Jill Gromen, Director of JEVS Independence Network, had this to say, “It’s the ripple effect of what Meaghan does. Connecting with other people, who want to connect, is always a benefit. Meaghan, and her board of directors, make individuals feel welcome.”
“When I was in high school, I really understood and I got to know people”. Meaghan recalls, “There was a girl that others wouldn’t hang out with. She would rub people the wrong way”.
“I’ve watched Meaghan, and she understands what people need, and this impacts the world around you, and the community as a whole. SPECTRUM in turn, helps a lot of families.
Everyone wants to have a place where they feel like they belong”, says Gromen.
With an estimated 1 in 44 people diagnosed, the prevalence of Autism is steadily increasing in the United States. Social groups like SPECTRUM highlight the importance of peer-to-peer connectivity. Meaghan and the SPECTRUM board developed a power point presentation detailing how to replicate a social group like SPECTRUM and hope to expand on outreach.
JEVS Independence Network is a unique program that empowers young adults with disabilities in a supportive co-ed community so, like Meaghan, they can live independent lives.
Supports are individually tailored and delivered to help people pursue their goals. These supports fluidly change as needed to address independent living and work skills, and develop community connections. Members are encouraged to take action and make choices that help them embrace independence, and build confidence and self-esteem. Most importantly, members develop strong relationships through building a circle of friends and a network of support.
Follow this link for more information about the JEVS Independence Network.