The Autism Program staff utilizes process evaluation indicators and outcome evaluation indicators to gauge overall program success and areas for improvement.
Qualitative data collected from participants at individual consultations held at periodic intervals, culminating in focus groups at the end of each program year, are analyzed. There are distinct focus groups for mentors, mentees, and caregivers. Questions are about the participant experience and the personal growth that results. Focus group data are analyzed using grounded theory to explore themes such as self-confidence, leadership, and community engagement.
Additional data on participant personal development is collected from the participants’ educators, primarily classroom teachers and guidance counselors. Pre- and post-TEAM program surveys are sent to educators to assess each participant’s abilities in the fields of flexibility, leadership, and problem-solving, among other skills.
“I like[d] the little holiday party and the birthday party. I don’t know, just us celebrating something together, it’s like another second home.”
“I think I chose to stay [for a second year] because you guys made me feel really comfortable, and I just like being around everyone because it’s like a peaceful thing. It makes me happy.”
“[Now] I want to help people even more. Before I started, I didn’t really help a lot of people, and if I could, I would find someone else that could. But since I’ve started the program, I think I’ve been trying to help a lot more people. I’ve started to volunteer in another program too, and I even went to the food bank a few times and volunteered there.”
“Originally before I started TEAM and everything, like I would always rush everything and wouldn’t like really wait for things to be done. But, like now I learned to be patient with things. I learned how to help out a friend if a friend needs help and just be there, just, you know?”
“[I learned] how to make fun out of anything-- like even when we don’t have things to do [for] five minutes, [the group] can find anything, and they can share a lot of information that you don’t think they actually know. You can actually learn from them, and I really appreciated that because I think I talk a lot with my group and I learn a lot from them.”
“I also like that we have people that give you attention too in the groups and stuff. So you don’t feel like an outsider. but you feel like you have people to relate to. I guess. I don’t know, you feel like you’re not the only one.”
“[Next year at TEAM] I kinda want to learn more. Because you guys are like doctors, I mean you guys work in autism stuff. I want to learn more about Asperger’s and stuff and autism.”
“It was very helpful when [TEAM] encouraged the kids to go outside of their comfort zone a little bit. My concrete example of that is at the winter party in December. You guys were doing karaoke, and so my son decided to do karaoke. He got a lot of praise and that helped fuel him to have the confidence to perform in his school talent show a couple of weeks after. He did well in that, so then he had the confidence to try out for a play in our community, in which he landed the role of Shrek in ‘Shrek.’ You know, I credit it to doing karaoke. Just being able to do something in a safe arena.”
“It’s given her something to look forward to. She found a group of friends. She loves the facilitators, it’s given her a sense of belonging that she really really needed.”
“One other benefit that made me excited about this program is that [TEAM] included neurotypical teenagers because I think there does need to be more understanding and acceptance from neurotypical kids to realize those with autism are okay. So I loved that aspect.”
“Since he’s done the vision board, when he does stuff now, he says what he wants to do and plans out his future from there. Like he wants to go to college, so he’ll look at a magazine and try to find a picture of a college. He wants to do culinary school, and he’ll look for pictures of a chef. He said he wants to drive, so he finds a picture of a car. So [TEAM] helped him to plan out his future.”
“I think that [student] shows a lot more compassion within school. She has taken on more of a leadership role to the younger students… I believe she has become more comfortable in a leadership role.”
“This past year, [student] has been more expressive. His personality has been demonstratively more playful… I think interacting with a wider variety of people exposes [student] to new ways to communicate and participate in social activities.”