LA Versus Bay: Autism

I am FINALLY in LA and settling in while scoping out the apartment scene. I have also been taking the time to look at the various agencies that focus on or at least include autism therapies in their offerings. I have already seen some interesting differences between agencies in LA county, and agencies in the Bay Area, and I’m sure more will pop up (which I will definitely write about). I will stress that this is just based on personal research I’ve been doing on agencies in LA (both before and after moving) and the Bay Area (which I have worked in and for); this is by no means comprehensive or an absolute of the offerings of these two areas. It is literally a “first impressions” kind of deal.

  1. Wraparound services and the concept of such seem to extend beyond the agencies themselves in LA. They tend to partner up with other agencies a lot more, mostly because the agencies down here appear more specialized in their missions. I’ve noticed that in the Bay, many agencies (at least the bigger ones) tend to be one-stop shops in a sense; for example, they will offer intervention or behavioral services, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in one organization.
  2. Because LA county is so freaking huge (and a pain to drive in), the agencies are much more narrow in their geographical scope here. They often have to limit themselves to certain communities, and even demographics within those communities. In the Bay Area, agencies tend to have more geographical reach and usually overlap in coverage areas. At my last job in the Bay, I had clients from Mountain View, to south San Jose, through Milpitas (google a map of the area, and you’ll see what I mean).
  3. The diversity of the type of agencies, at least for now, appears more vast in LA. Up north, there were no known agencies that utilized the Floortime/DIR method, and this was one of the reasons why I felt so left out of the autism circle there. ABA exclusively rules the land. While it also corners the market in LA county, I have found two agencies who use the Floortime method (basically unheard of in the Bay Area), and both have been in operation for well over a decade.
  4. Community outreach and connection is on a higher priority in LA. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist in the Bay Area, because it does. I am saying, though, that it is more obvious in the agencies I’ve researched in the LA area. The agencies down here overall (and not just special needs ones) tend to create and hold their own conferences, go into lower socioeconomic areas/neighborhoods, and communicate more readily with those neighborhoods. Why? Because individuals in those neighborhoods rose up and decided to carve such agencies into creation themselves.

Overall, the LA area appears to operate a bit differently than the Bay Area, which means I will have to learn the lay of the land first before really striking out to plant my business here. So far, though, I am excited with what I see.

Curiosity Can Be Good

I went to a friend’s birthday brunch over the weekend. This is a group I don’t see very often, mostly because they tend to do a lot of things in the North Bay, and I’m in the South. Driving an hour on a Friday, during rush hour, for dinner is too much of a pain for me. Anyway, whenever this friend has get-togethers at her place (which is a little closer), I get to see this group. Amongst them is a woman that shares a like of The Vampire Diaries with me, but up until Saturday, I figured that this was all we had in common.

While catching up, she admitted that she didn’t know that I was both working and going to school full-time. I figured that this, in her mind at least, excused me not attending some of her get-togethers. She asked about my thesis, and when I explained that it was about autism, the floodgate of questions started.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes questions can be deeply annoying if they are coming from the wrong angle. I have heard some really weird ones about autism, some that borderline on insulting. Then there are questions like this woman’s. She was genuinely curious. She asked about signs, the latest research, and what I hope to do with the thesis (Publish it? Yes. Turn into a book? God willing, yes.). Then I discovered why: one of her best friends has a teenage son with autism.

We must’ve talked for at least an hour. When she finally got ready to leave, she thanked me for “putting up with” her questions. She admitted that she had felt weird about asking her friend too many questions, and she appreciate my willingness to explain things in a way she understood (for example, explaining what “spatial intelligence” is). It was a challenge sometimes for me to explain certain concepts or ideas, but it felt good to know that there was one more person out there now that understood autism in a more complete way.

Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions. Even the insult-sounding ones, though vexing, are an opportunity to educate. I will always make it a point to encourage others to ask.

Thesis Update

Hello all!

The last several weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am super excited at the fact that my thesis on autism and spiritual/creative gifts has a thesis committee and is in the process of going through the ethics committee! My thesis committee has been amazing at helping me fine tune and enhance the proposal so that it is concise, understandable, and academic. The part that I really love, though, is how excited the committee is about the topic.

There is certainly something to the saying “when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” In the last 2-3 weeks, I have seen several teachers appear. These are others who, like myself, refuse to look at autism as just a set of behaviors to be corrected. Some are on the spectrum themselves. The teachers have also been of different ages, as several of my young clients are also teaching me every day.

In the next few weeks, I will be moving into the interview stage. I have a couple of kiddos and adults in mind, but I am always open to more voices. Even if they don’t end up in the thesis paper, they will probably be in the book I’m planning to write about the subject/program once I graduate in June.

I’m in the Bay Area of California, but thanks to this lovely invention called the Internet, I can also include people who are from all over. Even if you don’t want to participate in the thesis or the book, I love to chat with people about this subject. In my area, there are a handful of us in the field who feel this way. We would all like to see that handful grow.

Interested in participating, or know someone who may? Have a question about what I’m studying, or my plans for the SPARC program? Just want to say hello? Shoot me an email at sparcguidance@gmail.com.

The (Written) Journey Begins

The journey to get to this point has been a long but meaningful one. It was riddled with obstacles, setbacks, and fear. There were dark moments, and happy ones. The important part is that I pushed on, and here I am with a budding private practice and a plan that seems to get bigger and more real everyday.

This blog is an extension of my spiritual guidance practice in the Bay Area of California. As I develop techniques and ideas towards my goal of creating a full program, I will share many of them here. I will also include articles, videos, and information that I think readers will enjoy. I will aim at my main populations of choice: 20-somethings who are searching for their spiritual path (and who make up most of my interested clients), and those on the autism spectrum who have blessed gifts and talents are waiting to be enriched. I also hope that this blog inspires you to uncover your life purpose and move forward on your own dreams to change your world, no matter how big or small.

Let’s start this walk, shall we?

Peace and Blessings,

Angel Marie

NOTE: This site is a work in progress, so please bear with me as I get it up and running!