Maaya (Maya) Kuri Hitomi, Master's Student in Applied Social Psychology and NU Saskatchewan alum 2014-2015, shares her story with us:
Since graduating from the NextUp program part of my time has been dedicated to helping a group address a pressing need here in Saskatoon: the development of services for adults on the autism spectrum. For those under the age of 18, services, usually in the form of educational supports, social skills building, and family assistance, are available through numerous community organizations. However, once people on the spectrum reach the age of 18, these services are abruptly cut-off. To make matters worse, the services offered through these already overtaxed community organizations rarely focus on the skills necessary for people to live in our community independent of family or caregivers.
This unfortunate gap in the services available in our city leaves many of those with autism spectrum disorders to scramble for assistance from organizations without training on the specific needs of this community. As a result, these adults often feel as though their autonomy is undermined, their personhood is disrespected, and their abilities are ignored. To combat this, this group of people living with autism spectrum disorders has begun to organize. Starting with Spectrum Voices, a support group aimed at adults on the autism spectrum, these individuals aim to allow those in the community to share stories, information, and resources in a way that supports each member’s personal autonomy and unique skillset. From here, this group hopes to use evidence-based practice to service the needs neglected by other organizations. As an applied researcher and ally to this community, my role is to bring the skills necessary to identify these neglected needs and to assess the effectiveness of attempted interventions. Hopefully through partnership on this project, Saskatoon can begin, once again, to serve these individual and create framework for future services for this community.