What is the key focus of your program?
The focus of the program is to help young adults with social and learning differences to acquire the skills needed to gain and retain employment, engage socially in their community, and have the skills and confidence to live independently.
How long do students attend and what credits/credentials do they earn?
Individuals who attend ADVANCE do not receive a degree or certificate. They receive coaching and gain experiences that lead to independent behaviors. While we do support students who wish to pursue college degrees or vocational certificates, our program is a whole person approach to independent living.
What types of skills and knowledge are covered in your program?
We cover global skills related to social awareness, executive function practices, decision making, and goal setting. We spend most of our time on the skills needed to achieve independence: gaining and retaining employment, using and managing transportation, budgeting and financial awareness, diet and basic culinary skills, mental and physical health maintenance, and home care and hygiene.
What do the majority of your students do after completing your program?
After completing our two-year program our students are either working or continuing their pursuit of college degree or certification. Some of these students engage us for additional task specific coaching or counseling.
How do you prepare them for employment?
Our approach to employment begins with core skills such as attentiveness, flexibility, and persistence. For this reason, we start all of our students in volunteering and internship environments. We don’t do this because they don’t already have some well-developed skills, but rather to address lagging skills that often result in challenges in the workplace or termination. We use seminars to anticipate issues and practice appropriate responses. We utilize on-site coaching to observe strengths and weaknesses in performance. Strong relationships with the student and the employer create an environment where skills and advocacy grow in relationship to the individual’s needs.
What is the cost of the program and when should students apply?
The program has an annual tuition of $42,000. The student’s apartment rent, food, and entertainment budget vary from person to person, but average approximately $1900 per month (medications, social interests, and hobbies affect this number).
What makes a student a good match for your program?
The basic requirements are basic math skills, lack of addictions, and willingness to engage in the program. The most valuable attributes over time seem to be a desire to be independent, to give back to family and community, and an emerging sense of who they want to become.
How does your program support learning differences?
Our primary staff is composed of a family therapist with extensive experience with individuals on the spectrum, two speech therapists with training in social awareness and executive function techniques, and a job coaching coordinator with an excellent record of training and placing individuals with differences. Each brings a passion and understanding for learning and social differences and the support they need.
Are there supervised residences for students at your program? How much supervision is offered?
Our residential students live in a nearby apartment complex. The apartments are not our property. We share them with the community we live in. They are comfortable, modern and have an operations staff that knows and understands ADVANCE’s mission. We also have a licensed social worker who lives in the complex and is available to them during non-seminar or work hours.
What devices/technology are utilized by students? Is technology usage managed/monitored?
We use Apple products in our program: an iPhone and an iPad, which we issue to the student when they enter the program. The devices are monitored to coach usage and provide location. The software that we use allows us to restrict time or content, if necessary.
Does your program offer social activities? If so, how often are they offered?
We provide community meals and gatherings daily at the beginning of the program to verify cooking skills and to foster relationships among the students. We also have Thursday and Saturday QUEST events that allow students to choose, plan, and attend many of the parades, events, and festivals that are available in Houston.
How do parents interact with your program, if at all? How often?
Parents participate in weekly Advisory Calls (video conference call via ZOOM) with our counselor and their student to discuss their successes, challenges, and next steps. Of course, they can always email or call any of the staff for more detail about their student’s progress or program goals.