By: Brandon Moffitt, MA, LPC
As I reflect upon the last year and a half of developing and opening Black Mountain Academy, I have been struck with how much we continue to learn about autism. Research, personal memoirs, and popular media continue to expand what is an ever increasing understanding of a complex neurodevelopmental disorder affecting an increasing number of youth and families. I am inspired by the day-to-day challenges and triumphs we experience on our campus with young men who are affected by what is diagnosed as Level 1 autism. Unfortunately, I have often heard that a professional has told a family “your son is too high-functioning to qualify for services.” As a result, our students have missed meaningful opportunities and the support they needed to thrive.
It is our belief that accounting for the strengths that qualify an individual as “high-functioning” and the limitations that come with autism is integral to our students’ education and personal development. As you might expect, our work is fraught with the typical adolescent tasks of identity formation, navigating complex peer dynamics, and developing autonomy. With these challenges in mind, we also find tremendous joy in fostering our student’s unique interests, engaging them as their “best self,” and helping them carve out success in their daily lives. The balance we strive for is to adequately support challenges that emerge from underdeveloped self-efficacy, limits in social awareness, disjointed life skills, and executive functioning.
A key component of the work our team carries out each day is to help students expand and fulfill their greatest gifts despite the challenges they face. As students gain skills to manage an area of difficulty, their wonderful attributes and gifts show up more readily. Engaging in the lives of individuals with Autism is often complex. Embedded in that complexity are great gifts we work to discover every day!