Saturday, February 3, 2018

Invictus Enterprises ... 'Unconquered'

Inspiration comes in many forms …. and for me …. a visit to Invictus Enterprises offered it up ‘in spades’! 

Invictus Enterprises is attempting to create jobs for young adults in the autism community. They are currently using the task of making gourmet dog biscuits as a vehicle for their job training program. They are teaching trainees to become increasingly more independent, pacing themselves through job tasks using a digital recipe. The end goal for the program is job training and ultimately employment … but  it is very evident when you visit their program that enhancing social interaction is pivotal to their underlying philosophy.

The enterprise is spearheaded by the dynamo team of Alison Berkley and Molly Sebastian. Allison is a teacher by profession with a background in psychology. Molly works professionally in television & production and brings additional passion to this project as the mother of a child functioning on the spectrum. The combination of their skill sets is definitely a ‘recipe for success’.

Photos Derived from Website

On their website they have numerous fabulous videotapes that successfully impart the excitement and camaraderie of this exceptional program. In particular check out their ‘music video’!

Every Saturday these powerhouse ladies (Alison Berkley and Molly Sebastian) get together with a team of dedicated volunteers in a commercial kitchen setup in the heart of Manhattan to provide their ‘trainees’ with ‘hands on’ experience making No Bones About It Dog Biscuits. The resulting gourmet dog biscuits are sold online and at various pet stores

The team was just recently granted ‘a wish’ by Microsoft for several touchscreen-enabled laptops (Surface Book 2) to display their digital recipe (Microsoft PowerPoint). In a very competitive field of 10,000 submissions …  they were selected as one of three wishes awarded. To say that this team is ‘getting things done’ in a creative way is an understatement.

For the new calendar year, the Invictus team have set their sights on expanding their training program to include trainees with greater communication challenges. I was thrilled to be asked to make a series of Animated Step-by-Steps® to support them in their attempts to expand their community. 

As is the case with all Animated Step-by-Steps®, the text directions are broken down into smaller manageable units, each supported by an animation. The trainee/facilitator reads the text up to the star then swipes to the left to bring in a supporting animation. For the expanded roster of trainees, this altered format is a great way to scaffold comprehension skills. 

For individuals who can benefit from symbol support, an alternate version was created to enhance receptive and expressive communication using picture symbols. As is the case with all Animated Step-by-Steps®,  symbol support is added as a group after the page has been read and animated. This strategy is designed to minimize visual overload and support a ‘literacy first’ agenda.  The page can then be ‘reread’ using the symbols or volunteer staff can use the symbols to provide the Aided Language Stimulation needed to mediate the task at hand.

I love the fact that the team assumes competence. In the words of the founders of  Invictus Enterprises  … ‘lack of spoken language is not the same as having nothing to say’

Invictus Enterprises lives up to its name …  ‘unconquered’  (in Latin). I’m thrilled to have a small part in this exciting project!

…’til the next post … 

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©2018 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator