In 2002, the organization’s founder Barbie Lauver started the Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism Support Group with the desire to help her young son John Matthew and to meet other families who also had children diagnosed with autism. Along with the assistance of another parent Danielle Wendel, the support group has served over 1,000 parents, children, adults and educators by providing monthly support group meetings and autism-related community resources.
After experiencing too many years watching her son struggle and fail academically and socially in traditional schools and hearing similar stories from families in the support group, Barbie joined with other parents and professionals who shared a similar vision and created a private, non-profit school called the Achievement Academy in 2009. The school was based on the premise that all children can learn if they are in a supportive environment that offers ability-based academics and social and life skills training. Unfortunately due to the effects that the struggling economy had on its parents and enrollment, the school closed its doors in 2013. However, the vital skills taught at the school enabled its students to successfully transition into other school environments.
The Achievement Vocational Center program (now called Asperger’s Training, Employment & Life Skills) began in 2011 and grew out of a concern expressed from our students’ parents and support group members that there were very little services available to individuals on the autism spectrum once they graduated from high school. In order to fill this void, our organization became a provider of the Nevada State Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and began offering life skills and employment readiness classes. Over the past two years, approximately 100 adults have enrolled in the classes and have learned skills that are necessary to improve their sense of independence and employment success. With the desire to also increase the job opportunities for this under-served population, in 2013 our organization expanded its services to include custom job development and job coaching assistance.
Aaron S. Manfredi