“Adulting 101” is how a program helps students on the autism spectrum with life skills. At the University of North Florida, a program called THRIVE helps students with autism spectrum disorders develop social skills and friendships.
THRIVE is short for Transition to Health, Resources, Independence, Viable Careers and Education. Tara Rowe is the coordinator. She helped start the program as a student in 2012 and will soon have her doctorate in educational leadership. She is the only paid employee.
In just a few years, the program has grown from a few students to 127. Rowe likes to call it “Adulting 101” since it students can learn so much more in life skills than socialization.
Rowe coaches students to look other people in the eye, and how to speak with them comfortably. Students also learn skills such as cleaning, laundry, job interviewing, and cooking. A cooking class held recently resulted in many small veggie quiches. Stress management and personal budgeting are also a focus. Some students live together in a wing of a dorm, and others are scattered on campus and off.
According to Rowe, many of the students have done well in school. They come to college with high grades and merit scholarships. But they struggle with fitting in once they leave home, and some drop out. That’s where THRIVE steps in. “It has to do with being able to transition successfully when you’re at college,” Rowe said.