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The Network

The Network: A Monthly Social Networking Program for autistic adolescents and young adults.

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 social networking program for autistic adolescents and young adults aged between 16-30 years. The goal is to provide those with autism an opportunity to meet others and hopefully make connections. We meet at the beginning of the month in-person and in the middle of the month online and you can choose which meetings to come to.

When and Where

The Network takes place once a month in person (usually the first Wednesday of the month) from 6-7:30 p.m. Sometimes we meet at the UMass Lowell south campus (in Coburn Hall on south campus) and sometimes we hang out somewhere else (e.g. pizza, bowling, etc.). We also meet once a month (usually the third Wednesday of the month) from 6-7:30 p.m. online on a Discord server. During our online meetings we chat and play Jackbox and other games. 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 for our in-person meetings and on Zoom for our online meetings. 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.

Schedule for remainder of 2021

  • Wednesday, October 6: Escapology Escape Game in Tewksbury

  • Wednesday, October 20: Discord

  • Wednesday, November 3:
    • Group members: Pizza and games night at UMass Lowell

    • Parents/Caregivers: Expert Speaker Leslie Hughes from Massachusetts Advocates for Children will present a Transition training (via Zoom): This workshop will address the transition planning and services required for youth with disabilities ages 14-22 training and will focus on the transition special education services needed to prepare youth for employment, independent living, and further education. This training will also address compensatory services during COVID-19 to address transition needs and how to ensure districts fully address your child’s transition needs during the recovery. Using case examples, parents and professionals will learn strategies that can help students receive important transition services required by special education laws, preparing youth to live, learn, and work in the community when they exit special education. The workshop will also provide information about the transition to the adult human service system, including Chapter 688, the state law that helps plan for youth with disabilities after they leave school.

      Parents and caregivers will meet in a room at UMass Lowell to watch Leslie’s presentation together via Zoom (room TBD). Other parents and CARE affiliates may also join in via Zoom.

  • Wednesday, November 17: Discord

  • Wednesday, December 1: Chunky’s movie theater in Nashua

  • Wednesday, December 15: Discord

Instructions for Discord

If you already have a Discord login, you may join the server by clicking on The Network (UMass Lowell) Discord invitation link.

If you do not have a Discord account, you can follow the steps found on Discord's Getting Started webpage to create an account.

Having the app downloaded is encouraged, as you will not be able to see shared screens if you are only on the online platform.

Once you have your account created, you can click on the above server invitation link and join us!

More information about creating accounts and joining servers for your reference can be found on Discord's How to Set Up Your Discord Account webpage.

If you have any questions or need any help with Discord, please do not hesitate to email Danielle: DanielleMcL15@gmail.com.

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 both online and in-person. 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 best 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 for the in-person meetings, 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.

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. For the in-person meetings, parents / guardians typically meet together as a group somewhere close to the group members such as in a room next door if we are on-campus. For the online meetings parents meet together in Zoom. 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. Ashleigh has spent many years working with autistic adolescents and young adults, 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 into professional positions working with people with autism 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). Ashleigh will then review the enrollment and contact you with further details.

Contact

ContactAshleigh Hillier, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Lowell
850 Broadway, 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.