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


Advocacy Day Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

One of our students is studying Social Work at Northeastern Illinois Univerity (NEIU).  He is working very hard, and becoming incredibly active in the community as he dives into the policies and current issues that impact all people and their well-being.  He wrote a blog post about his experience at Advocacy Day in Springfield, IL.  We are very proud of his dedication, motivation, engagement, and determination!  


By Nathan Apelian

Advocacy Day was a very unique experience. The bus left NEIU at 5am, made it to Springfield at 9am, left Springfield at 3pm, and made it back to NEIU at 7pm. During this time I met two politicians and both from my district: State Rep Laura Fine (H17, NEIU Alumni) and Senator Daniel Biss (S09). Both of them are committed to helping people and very nice. Laura Fine’s Glenview office is down the street from where I live and I met her there also. Both I plan to meet again as I want to know their thoughts on bills and what they are doing in the community. I would like to meet Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy, John D’Amico, and Heather Steans in the future as they represent nearby communities.


Advocacy Day is just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to be involved in the social work field because I feel that there needs to be more advocates. Some people just protest, but I feel people need to do more. I am talking about getting to know the community, be involved with agencies, get familiar with the law, get familiar with bills, and to get to know state representatives and or senators regardless of their beliefs. I also wanted to get involved in social work as anxiety is one aspect that I wanted to look into as this affects young people, college students, elderly individuals, veterans, and people that work too much to name a few. In the next couple of years, I look forward to expanding my social work experience at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.


For further information on current and upcoming legislation, representatives and senators in Illinois, please visit: http://www.ilga.gov/



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:




A Resource for Improved Understanding

By Samantha Kolkey

I follow The Mighty on Facebook and their videos pop up on my feed often.  Recently, I saw a video that highlighted one of my student’s diagnoses, which is one that I am not familiar working with in a clinical setting.  It presented statements from individuals who also have the same diagnosis as this student. It opened my eyes to what this student is struggling with on a daily basis, and it clarified the challenges he has been enduring.  This led to me applying new approaches to help this individual.

The Options staff and I feel that The Mighty is a powerful resource for students, parents, clinicians, educators, and other family members to access when trying to understand an individual’s diagnosis and disability.   Frustration can be common among service providers and parents to those who have a mental health diagnosis or other disability. It is important to always get the individual’s perspective and The Mighty helps to provide this.  An improved understanding of an individual can only reap benefits.

Thank you @TheMightySite!

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: One T.V. Show’s Portrayal of Life with Autism

Atypical blog post

By Samantha Kolkey

To continue on the theme from the first blog post this week, I want to explore people’s opinions about the Netflix series “Atypical.”  This series aims to provide the viewer with a look into the real life of a teen with autism, and the challenges he faces in day to day life.

I recently began watching the series and felt that this would be a helpful way for people to gain a deeper understanding of what life is like through the eyes of a teen with autism. As Options for College Success works with young adults with learning challenges and disabilities, the series has provided me with greater insight into the perspective of a teen with autism. Navigating the dating scene, work, school, and family life can be anxiety provoking for most teens and young adults (actually let’s be honest here, it is for most everyone). This anxiety is much greater when identifying social cues and understanding the gray areas of life is perplexing.

How accurate is this series’ depiction from your point of view?

One of my favorite websites to explore for articles and resources about mental health and disabilities, The Mighty, posted a review of the series written by a teen with autism. Check it out! https://themighty.com/2017/08/atypical-autistic-review/

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”