Imagine that it’s your first day at college. You’re going to classes and meeting new people, but finding your core group of friends can be challenging. For vulnerable adults on the autism spectrum, it can be even more difficult.
At Augustana University, students with disabilities can find solace through FRIENDSLink, a Sioux Empire United Way-funded program providing specialized social and recreational opportunities for adults with disabilities, along with reverse integration opportunities for Augustana University students.
See the Impact
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Zach; I have autism spectrum disorder. I attend a program called Augie Access at Augustana University.
My teacher told me about FRIENDSLink. The first time I went to FRIENDSLink, I saw a few people I knew from Augustana and a bunch of people that I didn’t know. The people there made me feel welcome. It was easy to talk to the people there. Sometimes we do a craft or play a game or go somewhere fun.
Before I started going to FRIENDSLink, I was more bored and didn’t have people to talk to in the evenings at the dorm. I like to talk to people and am very social. Because FRIENDSLink is fun and the people make me feel comfortable, I go to almost every event. Because I like to help people, I decided to volunteer at the meetings. I help set up before the event starts and help clean up afterward. I invite others to meetings. Helping at the meetings makes me feel good about myself.
I am so thankful for FRIENDSLink. If there were no more meetings, it would be hard to meet other friends and I would be bored. There aren't any other groups like it.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Pam; I have a twenty-year-old son named Zach who has high functioning autism. He is attending a transition program at Augustana University called Augie Access.
Zach is very social but has difficulty starting and maintaining friendships because of his disability. Over the years, peers have been very kind to Zach, but he is mostly not included or invited to social activities.
His professor, Dr. Ashworth, introduced him to an organization called FRIENDSLink. Zach was reluctant to go the first time because he didn’t know what to expect. After he attended, he has hardly missed any of the FRIENDSLink events since. He quickly became involved, not just by socially attending, but also by volunteering.
He loves spending time with the other volunteers and participants. He feels understood and valued and needed by attending and serving this organization. There is no other organization in the area that serves adults with disabilities in this way. In addition to young adults with disabilities being served by this organization, I firmly believe that the volunteers that serve are also blessed. It also brings awareness to and compassion for the community of adults with disabilities.
Your support of Sioux Empire United Way benefits more than 70 adults with disabilities. Last year participants attended 159 small or large group activities, such as going to the movies, participating in a book club, painting, and cooking a meal together. The key part of the group is uniting together in friendship.