Dan Hanks M. Ed, Ed. S, LPC, owner of Cultivation Counseling in Coeur D’Alene (pictured above), noticed common themes in his work as a therapist of traditional out-patients, and his work as a school psychologist diagnosing students in CDA’s schools.
“There was need for creative services that could be tailored to fit the needs of children both academically and therapeutically. Autistic young adults have a wide range of academic ability. Some young people on the Autism Spectrum have the cognitive skills to be highly successful in not only academics, but also in complex job settings after college. However the standard, traditional educational path is oftentimes ill-suited to help these individuals meet their full potential,” says Dan Hanks on the link (or lack thereof) between education and ASD. In the summer of 2012, Dan’s team at Cultivation Counseling launched a whole new division of the business: Northwest College Support.
“We provide transitional and after care services for young people attending college. These young people may be just leaving home, graduating a residential program, or had a past college attempt that was unsuccessful. Our focus is on the individual as a whole, we provide our clients life coaching to help address day-to-day living challenges, educational coaching to help address learning challenges, and therapy to help with emotional challenges. Students typically work with us for at least two semesters.” NWCS’s services are centered around developing the executive functioning skills of their clients, the skill set that individuals with ASD are most commonly deficient in. Executive functioning includes abilities such as planning, focusing attention, creativity, organization of information, and control of impulsivity.
“Each individual requires different interventions and accommodations to be successful,” asserts Dan, illustrating a core value of NWCS: truly individualized services. The services of NWCS may include:
counseling and visits with NWCS’s in-house psychiatrist
development of vocational skills, nutrition, and exercise plans
transportation and furnished apartments
development of time management and study skills
parent education teaching healthy boundaries and communication
“Anytime you start a new business there is a risk. We felt confident from day one that there was a high demand for these types of services. However, the challenge is letting people know the resources exist.” It seems as though the risk paid off, and the fledgling company has built a strong foundation in its first year and a half of business. Key leaders of the therapeutic-educational world are beginning to take notice of them. Educational consultants from around the nation visit Coeur D’ Alene to meet with the team at NWCS as part of northern Idaho and Montana tours of therapeutic schools and programs.
Part of the marketing strategy at NWCS has been to use Coeur D’ Alene’s natural beauty and recreational activities as a key selling point for potential clients. “CDA is a great location for these types of services because it is big enough that there are a wide range of activities for individuals to get engaged in. It is also small enough for an individual to navigate. NIC (North Idaho College) is unique as a jr. college in that it is not as big as a state university, and is not as detached as some commuter-based community colleges. It has a dorm and a small community feel to it. CDA is a great place to have students engage in outdoor activities.” The team at NWCS also recognizes that there is significant need for their services in other communities. This past spring NWCS opened a branch in Seattle, and there are plans to open a Moscow, Idaho branch in the near future.
“Adults with Autism still have a great deal of potential in their life, and there is something very important about helping individuals with learning disabilities realize their potential. Our world needs people with autism to be successful. Modern society has the knowledge and the resources to help these people be successful.”