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Virtual Meetups for Young Adults with Autism: A Response to COVID-19

The world has experienced a dramatic shift in reality; restaurants have altered standard operations, foot-traffic on public transportation is virtually null, and individuals are figuring out how to live, work, and in some cases teach their kids while at home 24/7.

For young adults with autism, the change has been particularly stressful and riddled with anxiety and even depression. When faced with this new reality, the team at Urban Autism Solutions asked one question; how do we help young adults with autism during this time?

Team UAS quickly went into action creating free virtual meetups that provide a place for young adults with autism to meet others and learn new things. Meetups range from book clubs to cooking classes to history discussions; conversation and making connections is at the core of every gathering. We are even launching a weekly meetup for young women with autism and related disabilities.

In April, Governor J.B. Pritzker recognized a handful of organizations in the area that are committed to igniting positive change during the COVID-19 pandemic; Urban Autism Solutions could not have been prouder to have been mentioned at the top of that list.

"Look at the creativity that people have brought to make sure that those in need are truly cared at Urban Autism Solutions, which created digital meetups for young adults with autism so that they can make friends and learn new things and have fun with a new and different kind of engagement."

Thus far, the meetups have been met with overwhelming messages of sincerity and gratitude.

"They [the virtual meetups] are a bright spot in our day!" says Allison Patz, older sister to a young adult who participates in Urban Autism Solutions' virtual meetups.

Like Allison and her sister, several young adults with autism, family members, and friends, continue to attend meetups week after week, becoming familiar with one another and discussing shared experiences.

"For us, the response and participation within the meetups have been quite touching," says Heather Tarczan, Executive Director of Urban Autism Solutions, "What started as a mere idea has immensely transformed within a matter of weeks into something that connects young adults with autism across the nation, connecting on a variety of topics and interest.”

Thanks to the resourcefulness of Urban Autism Solutions' team and volunteers, these weekly virtual meetups are growing.

Additionally, the UAS Growing Solutions Farm continues to operate. A portion of all produce grown this season will once again be donated to food pantries serving the West Side of Chicago.

If you are in a position do make a donation to help the continuation of these programs, the Coleman Foundation will match gifts up to $25,000 as part of the worldwide #GivingTuesdayNow program.

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