An Emory University program is offering adults on the autism spectrum an opportunity to work on social skills and foster friendships through weekly meet-ups.
Loren Fisher, 29, has a non-verbal learning disorder and attended school for children with autism spectrum disorders in Vermont growing up, but had few options as an adult in Atlanta, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported.
“The thing that I have not been able to provide is these friendships that he really wants,” Melanie Fisher, Loren’s mother, told the news station. But through the My Life program, Loren developed social skills and learned to make eye contact with his peers, which he takes with him to his job bagging groceries at a local super market.
“Kroger wants us to talk to the customers, to make them feel welcome. But that’s just harder for me,” Fisher told MyFoxAtlanta.com. “Maybe it’s anxiety or nerves.”
Dr. Joe Cubells, director of medical and adult services at the Emory Autism Center, said it’s also important for his students to learn social cues. At the weekly hangouts the group works on making small talk and practicing social nuances.
“The point is that they develop the skill to pick up the phone and call a friend and say, ‘Let’s get together for a cup of coffee; let’s go out and grab some pizza,’” Cubells told MyFoxAtlanta.com.
Fisher has been enrolled in the program for a year, and each time he makes eye contact or speaks to a customer it feels like he’s made a friend.