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The Network

The Network: A Monthly Social Networking Program for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum.

Group photo of "The Network" showing young men and women sitting around a table playing cards. The Network is a monthly social networking program for high functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum aged between 16-30 years. The goal is to provide those with ASD an opportunity to meet others and hopefully make connections.

Overview

The Network is a monthly social networking program for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum aged between 16-30 years. The goal is to provide those with ASD an opportunity to meet others and hopefully make connections.

When and Where

The Network takes place once a month on a Wednesday (usually the first Wednesday of the month) from 6-7:30 p.m. Sometimes we meet at the UMass Lowell south campus and sometimes we hang out somewhere else (e.g. pizza, bowling, etc.). You will receive a schedule of Network meeting events for the year so you will know what is coming up.

There is a $75 annual fee to participate in The Network. This fee also covers the parent group which meets at the same time and place (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee). Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is the Program Director and Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

*Subject to change.

Wednesday January 8, 2020: 6-7:30 p.m.

(not first Wednesday of the month).
UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building, 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854.

  • Group Members: Games Night on campus. Please bring your favorite multi-player board game and a snack to share with the group. Also, please note our new “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.
  • Caregivers: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources.

Free parking is available in big parking lot on the corner of Wilder and Broadway (access on Wilder – barrier will be up). This lot is opposite the Health and Social Sciences building.


Wednesday, February 5: late afternoon / early evening.

  • Group Members: Escapology escape game in Tewksbury, Mass. $29 each but we might be able to get a group discount if enough people are coming.
  • Caregivers: Can just hang out in the lobby or drop off.

Wednesday, March 4: 6-8:30 p.m.

Please note the later end time. UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building (HSS), 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854.

  • Group Members: Movie and Pizza Night at UMass Lowell. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.
  • Caregivers: Focus group (and pizza!) with David Schena (in a room on the third floor of HSS). It would be great if as many parents/caregivers as possible could come in for this session so we can find out more about their future plans for their son/daughter. More details to follow.

Wednesday, April 1: 6-7:30 p.m.

  • Group Members: XtremeCraze, 15 Presidential Way, Woburn, MA 01801
    Fun center offering laser tag, inflatable airpark, & an arcade, plus a snack bar with pizza.
    • Lasertag: $17 per session which consists of four back-to-back five minute games. With briefing and vesting, each session is a total 40 minute laser tag experience.
    • Air park: $13 for 55 minutes. Best to reserve, so please RSVP to let Ashleigh know if you would like to do the air park. Wear regular socks (not trampoline socks) and long sleeves to prevent friction burns on slides.
    • Combo: Lasertag and airpark $25.
  • Caregivers: There is a café where caregivers can meet and chat.

Wednesday, May 6: 6-7:30 p.m.

UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building, 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854.

  • Group Members: Games Night on campus. Please bring your favorite multi-player board game and a snack to share with the group. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting
  • Caregivers: Expert Speaker Leslie Hughes from Massachusetts Advocates for Children: Transition from School to Adult Life - Using the IEP to Create Success.
    This workshop will address the transition planning and services required for youth with disabilities ages 14-22.
    The training will focus on both the transition special education services which prepare youth for employment, independent living and further education and discuss mechanisms to plan for services students may require when they exit special education as well as transition to the adult human service system.
    Through the use of case examples, parents and professionals will learn strategies that may help students receive important transition services mandated by special education laws.
    Parents and professionals will also gain an understanding on Chapter 688, the federal law that helps plan for youth with disabilities after they leave.

Free parking is available in big parking lot on the corner of Wilder and Broadway (access on Wilder – barrier will be up). This lot is opposite the Health and Social Sciences Building.


Wednesday, June 3: 6-7:30 p.m.

  • Everyone: Pizza Night at Dominos Pizza at 374 Chelmsford Street in Lowell, Mass.
    (If you don’t like / can’t eat pizza then hopefully you can find something else on their menu).

Please bring $5 to help cover the costs of the pizza and drinks. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.


Wednesday, July 1: 6-7:30 p.m.

UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building, 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854

  • Group Members: Social Games and Pizza Night on campus. We will plan a large group game / activity. Also, please note our new “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.
  • Caregivers: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources.

Free parking is available in big parking lot on the corner of Wilder and Broadway (access on Wilder – barrier will be up). This lot is opposite the Health and Social Sciences Building.


Wednesday, August 5: 6-8:30 p.m.

UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building, 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854

  • Group Members: Movie and Pizza Night on campus. We will vote for a movie we can watch together. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.
  • Caregivers: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources.

Free parking is available in big parking lot on the corner of Wilder and Broadway (access on Wilder – barrier will be up). This lot is opposite the Health and Social Sciences Building.


Wednesday, September 2: 6-7:30 p.m.

  • Everyone: Merrimack Valley Pavillion. Laser Tag, mini golf, snacks. 2087 Main Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876
    • Laser tag is $13 for one 30 minute game
    • Mini golf is $9 per person

You can choose to do both or either one.


Wednesday, October 7: 6-7:30 p.m.

UMass Lowell University Crossing. Video Games Night. 220 Pawtucket St, Lowell, MA 01854

  • Group Members: Video Games Night on campus. We will use the video game consoles available on the second floor at UCrossings. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.
  • Caregivers: Networking with other parents; sharing ideas and resources. There is Crossroads Café in the University Crossings building where parents can chat together.

Free parking is available across the street from the building in the with entry on Salem Street. This parking lot has an attendant - please let the attendant know that you are coming to an event on campus. Parking is free.


Week of November 2

UMass Lowell River Hawks ice-hockey game. Day and time depends on the schedule, so TBD.


Wednesday, December 2: 6-7:30 p.m.

UMass Lowell South Campus, 3rd floor of Health and Social Sciences Building, 113 Wilder Street, Lowell, MA 01854.

  • Everyone: Pizza Night at Papa Ginos. 29 Chelmsford Street, Chelmsford, Mass. Phine: 978-256-6999
    (If you don’t like / can’t eat pizza then hopefully you can find something else on their menu.

Please bring $5 to help cover the costs of the pizzas and drinks, or feel free to order something yourself. Also, please note our “no cell-phone policy” for this meeting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main aim of The Network program?

To provide a comfortable environment for group members to meet and make connections with one another. Ideally, people in the group will arrange to meet up outside of The Network and form lasting and rewarding friendships. Another goal is TO HAVE FUN!!

Who is eligible for The Network?

The Network is for adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum who are aged between 16 and 30 years, and their parents / guardians.

Should I attend The Network every month?

It is important to attend The Network as often as possible in order to increase your likelihood of making friends with others in the group. Sometimes you may find a particular meeting more enjoyable than others depending on what activities you like doing.

How much does it cost to participate in The Network?

There is an annual fee of $75 to be a member of The Network. This fee also covers the parent group (scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the fee). Also, sometimes when we are off campus you may need to bring some money with you. If we go out to eat or to some other event, then you will need money for that and perhaps some spending money too. When we are on campus we ask that members bring a snack item with them to share with the rest of the group. This might be a bottle of soda or juice, chips, cookies, fruit etc.

Should I bring anything with me to The Network meetings?

When we have a meeting on campus participants are requested to bring a snack item to share with the other group members. This might be a bottle of soda, water, cookies, chips, fruit etc.

Do parents / guardians attend The Network meetings?

Parents / guardians have their own separate parent group which takes place at the same time as the group members’ meetings (once a month 6-7:30 p.m., usually first Wednesday of the month). The $75 fee also covers the parent group.

Who runs The Network program?

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D. is the Program Director and a Psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Hillier has spent many years working with adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, particularly in offering various different programs.

In addition, UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students are involved in The Network. These students provide excellent role models for those in the program. Many of the students intend to move in to professional positions working with people on the autism spectrum when they graduate. Therefore, The Network provides an extremely important opportunity for them to gain experience and the skills they will need to be effective and successful professionals. Students participate for course credit, or as volunteers. Please see the section on volunteer opportunities for more information.

What is the next step for joining The Network?

You can complete an Enrollment Form (see below). This form can either be emailed or mailed to Ashleigh Hillier (Email: Ashleigh_Hillier@uml.edu). Hillier will then review the enrollment and if it seems like you / your son / daughter is a good match for The Network she will contact you with further details.

Contact

Ashleigh Hillier, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell
113 Wilder Street, Suite 300
Lowell, MA 01854-3059
Phone: 978-934-2930
Email: ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu

Enrollment Forms

Enrollment forms are available as a fillable pdf or as a word document. Both can be filled out on your computer or mobile device as well printed and filled out.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view any pdf files. It can be download for free from the Adobe website.

Students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who are interested in getting involved in the Network program should contact Ashleigh Hillier by email at: ashleigh_hillier@uml.edu.