The Social Space Community was established as a social and recreational hub for young individuals on the autism spectrum and other neurodevelopmental conditions.
The inspiration came from the children I worked with as a psychologist. Every child had their unique interests and abilities. I always saw the value in helping the children connect with like-minded peers. I felt that while they were learning skills at the clinic to support social participation, wouldn’t it also be wonderful for the children to have meaningful interactions about the things they were interested in and were passionate about with their peers and practice social learning in real-time. At the same time, I was conscious about the increasing dependency on technology, the hours of screen time and the negative effect on mindful engagement with their loved ones as well as connection with their inner positive resources. The pandemic sadly has worsened this problem, with more reliance on technology not only for meeting the daily demands, being entertained and beating boredom, as a coping tool but also for staying socially connected! As a parent, I was concerned with both physical and psychological effects within our own family as well as the extended family.
I recently submitted my doctoral thesis that focused on evaluating the effects of a yoga-informed intervention on self-regulation in children on the autism spectrum. The program was run as joint parent-child sessions. The children were taught ways to learn mindfulness through movement and strengthen the mind-body interconnection. The intention was for children to develop an awareness of their attention, bodily sensations, breath, emotions, and thoughts. I wanted the children to learn to mindfully connect with the experiences in the moment without judgement. While I was conducting the groups, I observed the parents and their young ones connecting with each other and co-regulating together. Although it was not a planned treatment outcome, it was wonderful to see them sharing space with each other and engaging in the same activity.
Thus, the ideas gradually came together and finally at the start of 2020, I decided to create a social space for young individuals on the autism spectrum with the aim to offer structured opportunities and activities for building connections with the inner self and with those around the individual. All activities would be joint parent-child/tween/teen sessions. The idea was to nurture belongingness and relatedness, build a sense of community, and improve well-being for all children and teens.
The groups begin on the 14th of November 2020. We are starting small, but our vision is BIG! Please go to our website for more details (www.socialspacecommunity.com).