Options for Success! Juniors and Seniors in High School-We are here for you too!!!

The pandemic has led Options for College Success to be considered Options for Success! We provide our services to Juniors and Seniors in high school, as well as post-secondary schooling and alternative paths! No matter if you or your student is learning virtually this fall or in a hybrid format, WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU SUCCEED in this new learning landscape. Please check out our most recent email blast with information on how to help your high school student succeed!



“People need to stop underestimating us”

Over the past couple of years, many stories have been published in the media about employers becoming more aware of how individuals with autism should not be overlooked in the hiring process, and any personal biases  towards individuals with autism need to be checked at the door.

This morning the Chicago Tribune published an article about a 17 year old with nonverbal autism and how he is raising awareness about not underestimating those with communication challenges.  This young man has a blog and is using this platform to create connections with others who have nonverbal autism.  This blog also opens up the eyes of those who are neuro-typical to the first hand experiences of a teenager with nonverbal autism.

Please click the link below to learn more about his story and to explore his blog!



October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Merging Talent with Opportunities

Autism Speaks is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month through October, and has numerous resources and information available!  Please click on this link to read more about re-thinking employment.



#autism  #autismspeaks #nationaldisabilityemploymentawarenessmonth  #NDEAM


Autism in the Work Force

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

At Options for College Success, we have career and job support services as part of our core curriculum as our students tend to struggle with finding their passion, building their resume, and interviewing skills.  Our students want jobs, they want to be employed.  However, their challenges with social and communication skills make it difficult for them to gain employment in a desired position.

Those with autism are extremely valuable in the work force but many individuals with autism are unemployed despite their ability to work independently. CBS Sunday Morning produced a news story about this issue and what some companies are doing when hiring individuals on autism spectrum.

“Don’t give up, and make sure to always aim high  Don’t aim in the middle. Shoot for the stars every time because you never know what may happen.” Christopher P.

There’s an App for that!

By Samantha Kolkey

As we all may know, there are literally applications for our phones, tablets and computers that will help with almost anything.

All of our students, as most people can relate to, are glued to their phones.  If I can help them utilize their phones to support the development of executive functioning skills, to establish a routine or habit, to limit distractions, or provide other ways to study for their classes, then I am open to this technology.

I was recently working with a student who has executive functioning deficits and needed support in establishing a more independent morning routine, including a more effective alarm.  A colleague suggested that I look at the app “Alarmy.”  Alarmy allows the person to set their alarm with a choice of settings: Take a Picture, Solve Math Problems, and Shake Shake (where you must shake the phone a specific number of times for the alarm to turn off).  This app helps decrease one’s tendency to snooze their alarm multiple times, and to not stay in bed for a long period of time. https://alar.my

Other apps to explore:

Streaks:  This app helps in establishing habits.  You can choose up to 12 tasks that you want to turn into daily habits. When it is checked off for the day, it creates a streak.  The visual of the streak creates a sense of accomplishment, aiming to motivate the individual to continue with the task.  If it is not checked off, the streak resets to zero. https://streaksapp.com/

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present: For those who have trouble stepping away from the internet to complete a task, study session, etc.  This app allows the user to create their own forest.  You begin by planting a seed.  Within the next 30 minutes, the seed will gradually grow into a tree. If you end up going to browse websites, the tree will wither away.  You can even put specific websites that distract you most on a “Blacklist.” This app will help to cultivate effective time management, and can also be used to decrease dependency on the internet. https://www.forestapp.cc/en/

Quizlet:  Supports studying on the go.  You can get gentle reminders to study, see how you’re improving, and work in short study sessions.  This allows you to create a study plan and can guide you through what and when to practice. https://quizlet.com/mobile

AudioNote:  This app combines the function of a notepad and a voice recorder to save time and improve the quality of one’s notes. AudioNote will automatically index lectures, meetings, interviews, or study sessions.  http://luminantsoftware.com/iphone/audionote.html

IntervalMinder:  This app can be used to support one’s therapy and self-monitoring goals. It is very effective for monitoring breaks. https://notchlandlabs.wordpress.com/about-2/interval-minder/


Happy App-ing!




Advocacy, awareness and action

By Samantha Kolkey

Despite us being one day late, I want to recognize the importance of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  Below is a message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, where he also identifies the theme for this year:

Secretary-General’s Message for 2017

“Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”

Resilience is central to achieving sustainable development. In its pledge to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda embodies a commitment to building the capacities of those who face marginalization and exclusion, in order to reduce their vulnerability to economic, social and environmental shocks.

In recent years, the international community has achieved notable progress in advancing the rights of the world’s one billion persons with disabilities. Disability is recognized as a cross-cutting issue in the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Yet, persons with disabilities remain too often excluded from the design, planning and implementation of policies and programmes that have an impact on their lives. Too often they face discrimination in labour markets and in access to education and other services.

To overcome this challenge, the path towards inclusive, accessible, usable facilities, technologies, infrastructure, services and products must be ensured by, for and with persons with disabilities. We must build on their agency, working together to design, develop and implement affordable and innovative solutions to realize equality for all.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us remove physical and cultural barriers, build resilient societies and create opportunities that truly leave no one behind.

António Guterres

Ensuring appropriate funding, technologies, medications, therapies, education, accessible spaces, and inclusive vocational and living opportunities are imperative issues at hand.

I will shamelessly promote my organization, Options for College Success, as we are a small part of the U.N’s agenda and 2017 theme. We provide an array of services to all individuals with learning challenges and disabilities for them to develop the confidence, courage, and skills to live independently, to live their best lives! We develop unique and personalized ways to support the individual in achieving their goals and following their passions. We advocate strongly for our clientele and those who are not part of our Options family.

In celebration of the day (even though it was yesterday), we encourage everyone to advocate for improved special education services in schools, for improved post-secondary options for those with disabilities (please see H.R. 3199), to think about ways to be inclusive and recognize where we are failing to do this, donate or volunteer for organizations that dedicate themselves to ensure that those with disabilities are not neglected in any way and are helping individuals become as self-sustaining as possible, and resilient members of our society.

Please check out the U.N.’s website on this day.  They lay out their plans and committees, the work they are doing internationally for this cause, and for more information:




Mental Health Phone Apps

Written by: Ashley Allis, LCPC

It is #WorldMentalHealthDay! In honor of this, the Options staff have asked Ashley Allis, therapist at Ashley Allis Therapy to write a brief blog post.

Did you know there are many mental health apps for your phone? Apps can be a good tool to use outside of therapy and many report they are easy to use. You can put your phone to good use!  Some of the apps are geared towards depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, meditation and relaxation techniques. These apps have been reviewed by the Anxiety Depression Association of America members. Take a look: https://adaa.org/finding-help/mobile-apps

Real Life with Autism: Insights from Young Adults with Autism

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By Samantha Kolkey

A couple weekends ago, I had the opportunity to witness inspiring interactions between two individuals who may be seen in society as “unable.”  These two individuals are young adults with non-verbal learning disabilities and autism. In the not so distant past, our society may have seen these two individuals as having a very low IQ, unable to have meaningful relationships, and unstable.  They would not be challenged, not provided stimulation to help develop their skills, and viewed as completely dependent on others. Thankfully, we are moving into more informed times, where adaptive technologies are studied and provided to those with disabilities. And we have to keep moving forward, researching, and advocating.  These adaptive technologies are not cheap, nor are they available in all schools. And then what happens when school is over with?

Now, I thought I was familiar with autism after working with children and young adults in social welfare for a little over six years, and also having a family member with autism. I was so wrong! What I am learning about autism now is straight from the minds of individuals with autism.

One of the individuals I had the privilege of meeting, a young woman, has created her own blog and I have been looking forward to sharing it here!  Please explore her blog as she writes about her insights, and experiences with autism. Opinionslearnedfromrpmandautism.com

Thank you to these two amazing people who have helped me continue to grow and understand.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

By Samantha Kolkey

Happy Friday!

Below is a link to a wonderful article about a man who turned the lemons he was given in life into lemonade intended to help people! Cliff Weitzman channeled his struggles with dyslexia and difficulties with speech into a new app catered to help those with cerebral palsy, stroke patients, autism, and various speech disorders communicate. It truly is inspiring and uplifting to see how one can reframe their challenges and create positive outcomes! Let us all get out there and spread positive energy, kindness, and love!


How have you channeled your challenges into the positive?


Finding Love and Friendship

By Samantha Kolkey

Happy Thursday! One more day until the weekend!

Weekends are typically filled with time spent with friends and loved ones–to enjoy our relationships.  Everyone hopes for stability, love, and an overall sense of belonging; however, it can be hard for individuals with learning challenges and other disabilities to find inclusion, friendship and love. Many have a difficult time with social cues, sarcasm, jokes, and identifying safety risks when in social situations.

Below is a link to a short news story that explores an application meant to help those with disabilities find love and friendship with just a few taps of a finger.

Thank you @newsyvideos