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?


Interview with an Alum

By Samantha Kolkey

One of our alumni, Nick, came into our new center to visit us!

Nick has a diagnosis of Asperger’s and depression.  He entered our residential program in the Fall of 2013 and stayed for two years.  He was kind enough to sit with me for a brief interview.

Nick, what is the thing you liked most about your time at Options for College Success?

“I liked the social activities.  I really liked going on the food outings and the big group activities downtown.”

What is one thing that you learned from the program that you still carry with you?

“Don’t give up.  Even when it seems hopeless, there are still reasons to get out of bed.”

What other things did you learn from your time with us?

Nick listed that he knows a lot about fixing cars from his classes at Oakton Community College. He worked on interviewing skills with our staff, and enjoyed this practice. Nick also learned to identify what is hard for him to do, and how to communicate this to those who can help him.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a student entering this program?

“When you first wake up, do whatever you need to do to get out of bed. Stay on the positive side. Embrace who you are and make the best of it, it could be your best asset.”

It is important to note that mental health issues can be co-morbid with learning challenges and other disabilities. Nick was able to work with our team on how his mental health issues impact his everyday functioning, along with his Asperger’s diagnosis.  Coordinating services with all service providers is imperative in creating and collaborating on an effective treatment plan.  #awareness

Sensory Friendly Space

From the Options Staff

We are raising money to make our lounge sensory friendly so that our students with ASD can enjoy a space which will foster learning and social skills in comfortable environment. Below, Autism Friendly Spaces offers an explanation on sensory and autism friendly spaces.

“To make something sensory friendly one typically adjusts the auditory, visual and olfactory stimulation to levels acceptable for the population that will be experiencing it. Since individuals with ASD do have difficulties with self-regulation and adjusting to sensory stimuli, it makes sense to begin here. However, such environmental changes alone do not make something autism friendly.  Since the primary difficulties facing people with ASD concern language, social skills and repetitive/rigid behaviors, making something autism friendly also requires the introduction of visual supports to make the environment more predictable and address challenges with transitions, as well as tools to address difficulties with social interaction and perspective taking.”
This is all of the reasons why this is important to us. Our goal is to reach $10,000, and as you know, every bit counts. To donate, please see our Go Fund Me page at
Thanks for  helping out!!!!

You Never Know Until You Ask

 Mum Steph Opogah was left speechless when kind-hearted staff at Mothercare sent her this box of her son's favourite shoes



By Marcella Mackowiak

Sometimes it’s impossible for people to summon the courage to ask for the things that they need, or even want. However, a mum in the UK was “left absolutely speechless” after all of her work paid off for her son living with autism. Sometimes it’s the little things that make people smile, and whilst this is a biggie, it surely brought a tear to my eye.


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



The Importance of Knowing Yourself and How You Learn!

By Samantha Kolkey

A few days ago I came across a brief TEDx Talk and I felt compelled to share it. In his powerful presentation, Scott Sonnon details his experience growing up with Dyslexia. His story has so many layers including the impact of violence on children and the importance of advocacy.  Please feel free to leave comments about how you discovered your learning style and any thoughts on how the American education system can approach teaching without enforcing conformity to one learning style.

“How we suppress genius and create learning disability”

Love to Eat? How About Cook?

By Marcella Mackowiak

I’m not sure about everyone else, but nothing makes me happier than knowing that I am going to have a great dinner that I prepared. But how about those who live with ASD? Who said that one of my students can’t have the same satisfaction that I do just because they’re on the spectrum? Here’s an article written by Sasha Long on the website The Autism Helper that offers some tips great on cooking with ASD.


Image result for photos of people with autism cooking