Creating Community & Potential for
People with Autism & Related Conditions
Vision: To create a community hub that fosters the abilities of people with autism and related neurodivergent conditions, so they reach their potential and thrive in the community, in the workplace, and in life.
Goal: To build the Greenleaf Neurodiversity Community Center (Greenleaf NCC), a place that creates a supportive community and provides new skills development and educational opportunities for people with autism and related neurodivergent conditions.
Core Belief: All individuals, regardless of level of support needed, should be able to live a life filled with purpose, dignity, agency, and joy.
Who: This project was launched by Easterseals Central Texas, and its leadership team is supported by a Steering Committee co-chaired by Randi Shade and Rebecca Yerly and comprised of the following members: Dennis Cavner, Rene' Craft, David Ferdman, Greg Hartman, Jon Hockenyos, Lucy Humble, Johanna Vernick, and Easterseals Central Texas Board Chair David Schneider.
What: Greenleaf NCC offers vocational exploration opportunities and structured social activities that focus on individual capabilities and strengths, starting with programming for young adults who have skills and interests in creative arts and technology. Social Creativity Clubs are already providing weekly arts-based classes and social outings for young adults on the autism spectrum, using a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates art, drama, digital media, creative writing, and music. These activities are designed to promote friendships, creative self-expression, social skills, workplace readiness, and a sense of community belonging. A peer mentor training program offers growth opportunities for participants ready to take on leadership roles, there is an online Dungeons and Dragons gaming club, and social creativity programming is now part the Texas Workforce Commission-approved Next Steps vocational training classes that Easterseals runs. In April 2020 the Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved launching a new school in partnership with Greenleaf NCC to serve transition-aged young adults, and this new Public School Partnership will open in the fall of 2021. There are plans to add programs to support family members, employers, and service providers, as well.
When: Community fundraising has begun and so has Social Creativity programming. The 18+ program for transition-aged special education students with autism and related neurodivergent conditions who qualify for special education services, want to continue their academic pursuits in the public school system, and have skills and interests in creative arts and technology is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2021.
Where: Eventually to be located on Evergreen Avenue off of South Lamar and just a mile south of the river, there are plans for 15,000 square feet of recreational space that will include multi-purpose classrooms, a gym, swimming pool, and catering kitchen for job training and social enterprise revenue. Until the new building is constructed, programs are happening at rented space located at the intersection of Lamar and 183, as well as at Easterseals and community partner locations. Because programming had to be offered using virtual technology tools during the COVID-19 pandemic and because it worked so well for many folks, online options for participation will continue, as well.
Mitchell Bowman, MAEd, CAS (he/him)
Director, Greenleaf NCC Social Creativity
Easterseals Central Texas
Corporate Office Address: 2324 Ridgepoint Drive, Suite F-1, Austin TX 78754
Greenleaf NCC Location: 911 W. Anderson Rd., Suite 203, Austin, TX 78757