Who is The Next Stop program designed for?
Adults who have mild intellectual disabilities, high-functioning autism, or acquired brain injuries and meet the following guidelines.
Members must be
- 20 years or older
- Able to communicate verbally and contribute to a conversation
- Able to use the bathroom without assistance
- Able to function within a group without one-on-one support
- Able to focus on a task and follow directions
- Cooperative, compliant, willing, and able to engage in program activities
- Members must not have aggressive or violent attitudes or behaviors
What do members do at The Next Stop?
The Next Stop’s program provides large and small peer groups with personal mentor leadership to encourage members as they engage in intentionally planned activities. These activities allow supported opportunities for social engagement, recreation and leisure participation, and life application learning. Engaging in supported and cooperative group activities allow members the opportunity to practice appropriate social skills, further their own learning and skills, and experience success and the pride of accomplishment alongside their peers.
Inside the Suwanee Sports Academy we have our own two rooms for activities, complete with a residential kitchen. We also have access to gym space for recreation along with the Suwanee Greenway walking path located outside.
Our typical afternoon is planned by our occupational therapist to ensure members are involved in purposeful, goal-oriented pursuits throughout the afternoon. It is divided into 4 components:
- Social: The first hour is our dedicated social engagement hour. Facilitated by our 5 daily volunteers, members choose to be involved in games, puzzles, gym activities, visiting with peers and/or arts/craft activities. This time fosters conversation, friendship, and social support.
- Cooking: Cooking and food preparation occur each day. Members work in small groups of 6, with a designated member (sous chef) actually leading the recipe preparation. A Next Stop volunteer facilitates the sous chef’s leadership and the preparation process as needed. This daily activity allows our members to work to build confidence through the success of a completed task. The best part may be snack time when they are able to enjoy their group’s creation.
- Recreation: In an effort to increase the physical activity of our members, we have a daily recreation time. Because it is not unusual for this population to lead a sedentary lifestyle, providing opportunities to increase one’s physical activity is provided. Also, improving skills such as balance, gross motor movement, and even score calculations is often incorporated during this time.
- Social/Enrichment: The last hour of the day is considered our social/enrichment time which is always fun and full of laughter. Providing opportunities to express oneself and to think is the cornerstone of this time whether it be through a game, music therapy, or learning something new. Facilitated by program volunteers, members practice thinking skills such as considering, reasoning, and remembering while participating in a fun activity.
In addition to our “typical” days, members of The Next Stop engage in other opportunities throughout the year. Whether it be a visitor coming to share their expertise, working on collaborative art projects, participating in community service projects or even preparing for our annual family event, our goals for them are to experience life to the fullest.
Who Staffs the Program?
Vicki and Stu LaRoche, are the founders of The Next Stop. Vicki acts as the Executive Director. To complete our outstanding leadership team, The Next Stop also has an occupational therapist who is our Program Director as well as a Kitchen Educator, and an Administrative Assistant. Please click here to learn more about our staff.
Five program volunteers a day lead small groups under the direction of the staff. Our staff and volunteers have all been screened with criminal background checks and fingerprinting. Because program volunteers facilitate activities, support social interactions, lead groups, and encourage members, their role at The Next Stop is an integral and unique part of this program. Please click here to learn more about our program volunteers.
What are Our Goals?
We recognize that all people thrive best when secure in a supportive group environment where they are accepted and valued. Our goal is to provide that environment and within it, mentor our members by
- Fostering members’ independence during tasks
- Encouraging members to not only participate in, but also initiate activities and make decisions
- Facilitating mature social interaction with mentored behavioral modeling
- Providing opportunities for successful participation in meaningful activities
- Supporting the use of fine and gross motor skills
- Exposing members to new and meaningful experiences
- Providing opportunities to develop responsibility and leadership skills
- Providing a safe, supportive social environment of encouragement and belonging
- Incorporating the philosophy of “dignity of risk” where members are allowed to participate in activities within a safe, but not without risk, environment
An overarching goal of The Next Stop is to reduce the risk of social or cognitive decline of our members. When school ends, this population experiences more idle time and lose the consistent peer and teacher relationships that have supported the preservation of their individual developmental skills. The Next Stop seeks to help members maintain or even improve their abilities, and support their personal growth as they journey through adulthood.