Center-Based Nonwork Activities

The most common type of activities in the majority of center-based programs for adults with developmental disabilities is nonwork in nature—the participants earn no income from participating in the activities. Although nonwork, center-based activities can vary considerably, they generally fall within one of two categories in terms of their purpose. One category involves teaching activities, designed to help participants learn and apply useful skills. The vast majority of center- based programs are intended to provide teaching services to at least some degree, which can be highly beneficial for helping adults with autism increase their functional independence. However, as noted in the introductory comments to this text, serious concerns exist about the focus of center-based instructional services in terms of what is frequently taught to individuals (see subsequent chapters for more detailed examples). Many of the skills being taught have no apparent usefulness to the participants for leading independent or productive lives as adults.

The second category of nonwork activities is considered leisure or recreational in nature. The purpose of these activities is basically to enhance daily enjoyment of the adults during their routine weekdays. Concerns exist with these types of activities though because there is usually no direct evaluation or demonstration that the participants enjoy the activities in which they are expected to participate. Additionally, the activities provided are frequently designed for young children and do not provide participants with opportunities to experience what most adults enjoy doing during their leisure and recreation time.

For reasons just noted as well as those summarized earlier, nonwork activities in center-based programs are generally considered the least meaningful day supports provided by human service agencies for adults with autism. Additional reasons regarding the lack of meaningful utility of common nonwork activities in center-based programs will be highlighted later. The primary point here is that many adults with autism spend their weekdays involved in these types of activities with little if any impact on helping them experience a typical or desirable adult quality of life. It is the latter type of activities that is the primary concern of this text, with a focus on how to change traditional, nonmeaningful activities to more meaningful and productive experiences for adults with autism.

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