2021 Fall IGNITE News

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IGNITE is a program of the Autism Society of North Carolina, with founding support from the Evernham Family-Racing for a Reason Foundation. Fall 2021 • Volume 8, Issue 2

LiNC-IT and IGNITE By Mindy Govan Transition & Employment Services Director

What is LiNC-IT? Linking North Carolina to Innovative Talent (LiNC-IT) is a unique collaborative partnership between government, non-profits (including the Autism Society of North Carolina), and employers, created to address the significant unemployment rate (86%) for young adults with autism who have some level of postsecondary training or college. While many of these young adults are skilled, talented, and bright, the traditional job search process can be a barrier. Job candidates with autism rarely get the chance to demonstrate (Story continues on pg. 2)

What’s Happening at IGNITE?

Rules of the Road Driving independently is a common goal for IGNITE members. Access to transportation and driving increases mobility and independence, but according to a 2018 study, only a third of adults with autism obtain their driver’s license by the age of 211. We created a group called Rules of the Road to assist members pursuing their licenses. Each week, we gather to

discuss driving safety (although we do not provide physical lessons behind the wheel). From road signs, to getting pulled over, to taking practice tests, this group covers it all. At the end of the semester, each member has created a goal around driving that they will work toward in the hopes of becoming more independent.

1 Curry, A. E., Yerys, B. E., Huang, P., & Metzger, K. B. (2018). Longitudinal study of driver licensing rates among adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 22(4), 479-488.

IGNITE is a unique ‘peer-to-peer’ community center for young adults with high-functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) offering activities, skills training, and educational workshops that foster social, financial, educational, and employment independence for its members. More importantly, IGNITE offers a social environment where members can connect with others and experience a sense of community.

For more information:

www.autismsociety-nc.org/ignite You can donate to IGNITE online or send a check made out to the Autism Society of North Carolina: Attn: IGNITE 5121 Kingdom Way, Suite 100 Raleigh, NC 27607

Davidson Member Spotlight:

Alex Vose

Alex Vose became a member of IGNITE Davidson in November 2012, making her one of the very first members of the program. If you had asked Alex what life was like in the very beginning of her membership, she would have told you that she felt like she didn’t have a purpose and was uncertain about everything. Alex did not have many friends at the time, was struggling to find employment, and really feared she would never become independent. Ten years later, she is thriving more than ever! Alex is now a full-time employee at a federal court building in downtown Charlotte – a major success from her list of many goals! Alex attributes this major accomplishment to her hard work, dedication, and support from IGNITE. With a full-time salary, Alex is now able to afford to live independently. IGNITE staff connected her with another member, and they now live in a house together and are loving every minute of it. This year has been one full of many firsts for Alex, and she hopes to continue to meet other goals related to money management, home maintenance, and more. Although Alex has completed many important goals this year, she still finds IGNITE to be just as helpful as the day she walked in. Alex says, “IGNITE staff are always there for me and give me one-on-one time to talk about what I need help with, and they’re constantly cheering me on. They have given me the knowledge on the ins and outs of becoming independent.” Two of Alex’s favorite groups are game time and social skills. She says these two groups allow her to see all of her IGNITE friends while also learning better ways to communicate. “The staff at IGNITE is amazing,” Alex says. “Thank you for being there for me through the years and helping me from when I started to now.” At IGNITE we are very proud of how far Alex has come in her journey and look forward to seeing where life takes her next!

LiNC-IT and IGNITE (continued) their skills and often take jobs below their level of training, or not in their selected field at all. LiNC-IT aims to open doors and increase opportunities for adults with autism. LiNC-IT uses an “internship-to-hire” model. LiNC-IT interns are paid a competitive wage during a 12-week internship. During the internship, the intern is supported directly by agencies such as the Autism Society of North Carolina. Ninty-seven percent of interns who have used the LiNC-IT program have turned that opportunity into full time employment with the companies. In the rare case that internship does not turn into permanent employment, the candidate still has gained experience in the field to add to the resume. LiNC-IT and the Autism Society of North Carolina work with companies so that they understand the benefits of hiring neurodiverse candidates. We help to educate HR departments and hiring managers about autism and how standard hiring practices rule out talented candidates. LiNC-IT has been effective in creating changes in the recruiting process so that individuals with autism can succeed. For example, when employers shift an interview from a social communication interaction to a skills demonstration, candidates with autism excel! We also explain the employment supports and job coaching the Autism Society of North Carolina provides, and we find this education is often able to shift the employer’s mindset. What does this have to do with IGNITE? IGNTE members are required to have at minimum a high school diploma on the standard course of study. Many of our members are also pursuing further education or specialize training. Our members are the typical candidates that LiNC-IT is serving. Our talented members are often unable to break into the job market at the level they are capable. They are either unemployed or underemployed, and LiNC-IT and our Employment Services Department are working to change that! All three IGNITE program locations are now paired with an Employment Services Department. IGNITE members are encouraged to enroll with Vocational Rehabilitation (the funding source for our employment program) and to work with the employment staff to locate appropriate job opportunities. IGNITE also encourages members to increase their education and supports them through the process when needed. We have been successful in placing IGNITE members interested in computer IT, accounting and finance, CAD, and more into professional level positions with companies such as Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, Bank of America, SAS, and Fidelity. We are constantly reaching out to companies in other industries to increase options for our members. Learn more at linc-it.org/

PG 2– IGNITE NEWS • Fall 2021

Greensboro Member Spotlight:

Jacoby Arbogast

Jacoby Arbogast has been a member of IGNITE Greensboro since 2020. He is employed at Food Lion and attends community college full-time, where he is studying to become a surveyor. He enjoys spending time outside walking various trails throughout Guilford County and is an active participant of our hiking group. He often suggests specific trails for us to go to and can lead the way, as he is familiar with many of them! Jacoby is also active in our cooking group and loves putting his own spin on the recipes we make. Jacoby enjoys playing board games and brings new games to share with the members during game time. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our group and is always up for trying new things!

friends, and played Pokémon Go in his leisure time. Upon returning to IGNITE, Jacoby said he was happy he decided to take the temporary assignment because it gave him a sense of what living independently would be like - the good parts and the more difficult parts.

We are happy that Jacoby joined IGNITE and decided to return to the program after his summer away. We are excited to see what goals he will continue to achieve during This past summer, Jacoby was given the opportunity to move his time in the program! to the beach to temporarily work at a local Food Lion. During the summer, he worked full-time hours, spent time with new

What’s Happening at IGNITE? (continued) Self-Advocacy

Happiness Habits

Self-advocacy can be demonstrated in many different aspects of life: by advocating your needs at work, asking for a break from a social gathering, or even writing your emotions. Writing is a form of expression that is widely used, and IGNITE’s creative writing group has found it extremely useful. During the pandemic, IGNITE created a creative writing group to provide a safe place for our members to express their emotions. Through this group, we have seen many open up and make themselves vulnerable through their writing, expressing emotions and thoughts that they may not otherwise express. Topics are not always serious; our prompts range from personal reflections to comedy. All writing is allowed!

Good mental health is essential to becoming the best version of ourselves. This semester, we’ve created a new group called Happiness Habits! Through this group, we help our members to learn the skills necessary to enhance their overall mental wellbeing. Each week we dive into a different topic related to mental health and provide a safe space for members to talk with one another. During Happiness Habits, we complete individual activities to practice what we teach and identify coping skills to improve our mental wellbeing. Some of the activities have included self-portraits for self-love, games to identify what motivates us, and journaling to help show ourselves self-compassion. This group has given members the chance to step out of their comfort zones and learn more about their mental health and ways to improve their wellbeing!

IGNITE NEWS • Fall 2021 –PG 3

Ray J’s Reviews Check out IGNITE member Ray J Evernham’s movie reviews online at his new site: rjthegleek.wixsite.com/my-site

While the backbone of the film does feel a bit weak at times, I overall really enjoyed Amazon Prime’s adaptation of “Cinderella.” I’ve never been a huge fan of the Cinderella fairy tale. Was never crazy about the original animated Disney version (although I do love me some Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo), and I thought the live action Disney Cinderella in 2015 was fine, but I still found it a bit boring. The Brandy/Whitney Houston made for TV movie version has always been my favorite! What sparked my interest about this new take though was when I found it was going to be a jukebox musical, with covers of songs, and mashups. That is right up my alley! Plus, it is directed by Kay Cannon, who wrote all three “Pitch Perfect” films. Love those movies! I cannot stress enough...do not go in to viewing this movie expecting Disney magic - it’s not Disney - it’s a unique Cinderella story all its own! I’m sure most everyone knows the story of Cinderella.... an orphaned young woman that lives with her super mean stepmother, and dimwitted stepsisters...forced to clean all day...until she has a night of fate full of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, glass slippers, and ends up getting her happily ever after with the prince from the ball. Well as advertised, this is not your typical Cinderella! In this take on this classic tale, we have Ella (played by pop music singer Camila Cabello), and she isn’t concerned if one day her prince will come or not! No! Ella has a passion for fashion, and wants to design her own dresses, plus has a vision to have her own business in the village “Dresses by Ella.” Of course you can’t have a Cinderella story without the stepmother and stepsisters. Idina Menzel (who you may know as the voice of Elsa from a little Disney movie called “Frozen”, and the original cast of “Wicked” on Broadway) plays the stepmother Vivian, and Maddie Ballio (from NBC’s “Hairspray Live”) plays the one stepsister Malvolia, while Charlotte Spencer plays the other stepsister, Narissa. Moving along to the prince...after being hounded over and over and over by his father (played by Pierce Brosnan) it is announced by the town crier via “Hamilton” rap style that Prince Robert (played by Nicholas Galitzine), is looking for a bride, and soon it’s announced that a ball will be held so he can find his future wife. After a meeting of fate in the town village trying to get villagers to purchase a dress she has designed, Ella runs into Prince PG 4– IGNITE NEWS • Fall 2021

Robert, and of course his charming selfconvinces her to come to the ball, but we all know what happens after that! Vivian forbids her from going, and after crying and singing a reprise for like two minutes, she is visited by a butterfly that was in the middle of metamorphosis in the basement the last time she saw it. That butterfly, just happens to be her Fab G, aka Fabulous Godmother...yes, we have a genderneutral fairy godmother in this version (played by Billy Porter). Instead of giving Ella some Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, he spreads the magic with a thrilling cover of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Shining Star,” then sends her on her way to the ball. Now from here on out is where things begin to get interesting plot wise for this Cinderella story, but I will say to you all that if you enjoy musicals, and are familiar with the story, I highly recommend giving this film at least a chance! I mean there is way more music in this version than there was in Disney’s 2015 live action, which was pretty magical, but I overall thought was a bore. I was really looking forward to this movie, and I probably had my expectations a little too high but honestly this was such a feel-good film, and I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack! It’s on repeat! The music is for sure one of this movie’s strongest elements! You have a couple original songs, one for Ella (performed by Camila Cabello), “A Million To One”... which is a pop ballad about her looking to the future and realizing her dreams of owning her own dress shop...and you have a song for the stepmother Vivian (performed by Idina Menzel), “Dream Girl” an edgy pop rock song that comes just after a twist in story we learn regarding her past. As far as covers....they are all so awesome, and the arrangements give me life to be honest Haha... The movie opens with an awesome mashup of “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, and “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, and also features covers of “Somebody To Love” by Queen, “Material Girl” by Madonna (which Idina Menzel absolutely nails), “Am I Wrong” by Nico and Vinz, as I mentioned before “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, another awesome mashup featuring “Whatta Man” by Salt & Peppa/En Vogue, and “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran, and the finale “Let’s Get Loud” originally by Jennifer Lopez. As far as the acting, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by pop music singer Camila Cabello as this “Girl Boss” Cinderella! She was very humorous, and charming! I also thought Idina Menzel was excellent too! So, all in all, if it’s a million to one, I do recommend taking a chance on Amazon Prime’s twist on “Cinderella”...just make sure to manage your expectations for certain aspects, and you will be all set! The soundtrack will not disappoint you!

Raleigh Member Spotlight:

Michael Bush

Michael Bush, affectionately known as Michael B, has been a member of IGNITE since 2018. He was born in Raleigh and has lived there his whole life. After graduating high school, Michael worked hard to live independently and to learn how to drive. Though Michael lives independently now, he enjoys spending time with his mom, dad, and older brother. Michael describes himself as hard working, a good listener, and very honest. Michael’s hard work extends to his career. He worked for a non-profit for seven years. After dealing with a difficult work situation, Michael worked to find another job. Michael now works for a company doing tasks like cleaning and breaking down boxes and working on their assembly line. Although Michael works, he regularly attends IGNITE. Michael explains, “IGNITE is a place where adults with autism come to learn different life skills. You can find people with the same interests as yourself.” One of the skills Michael wanted to learn was cooking, and since joining IGNITE, Michael has learned to make many dishes, including

stovetop macaroni and cheese, brownies, and guacamole. He attends IGNITE because he enjoys the social aspect and likes the groups that are offered. His favorite groups are creative writing, game night, and his most recent favorite – disc golf! Since learning about disc golf at IGNITE, Michael has been playing regularly. He explains, “I like it because the gyms were closed during the pandemic, and I didn’t have a way to exercise. Then I was introduced to disc golf as exercise. I like that it is outside and I sweat a lot. I like that I am good at it.” Michael B’s advice for folks that are interested in IGNITE is: “Don’t come here because your parents want you to, do it because you want to be here. You will get more out of it.”


Mindy Govan, Director Davidson Staff

Entries accepted through Nov. 19 Voting ends Nov. 30

Alicia Lenhart, Senior Program Director Ashura Colquhoun, Program Coordinator

Julianne Wade, Program Coordinator Ray J Evernham, Office Assistant

Greensboro Staff

Raleigh Staff

Allison Butwinski, Program Director Emily Crisco, Program Coordinator

Dianna Padilla, Program Director Sarah Lewis, Program Coordinator Samantha Thomasson-Bless, Program Coordinator

IGNITE NEWS • Fall 2021 –PG 5

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