Erik's Minnesota Adventures is an innovative program for young adults with autism. As experience guides, they will lead volunteers on tours, providing an opportunity for them to share their unique talents and expertise in specific areas within the arts, history, sports, environment – whatever their passion.
Each tour in the Twin Cities metro invites six to 30 volunteers to participate in adventures, such as accompanying a skilled equestrian to the racetrack for a private session with a jockey or learning about St. Paul's architecture from a young man with a photographic memory.
What does it mean to be a volunteer?At Habitat for Humanity, it means building a house. Individuals donate time and money to build a home for someone in need of shelter and stability.
At Erik’s Minnesota Adventures, it means building a person. Companies, groups or individuals volunteer to be guests on a guided tour. The guides are young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are passionate about their subject matter. Volunteer guests on that tour, ultimately give our tour guides a place in society. As a volunteer guest, you listen, learn and interact with the tour guide.
So this isn’t volunteering in the traditional sense of the word. But it is an idea whose time has come. Here is why:
Many adults with ASD are isolated—they have no job, few friends and no meaningful role in society. Because they struggle to initiate and maintain social relationships, they struggle to get and keep jobs. They may lack appropriate verbal communication skills, or may possess splinter skills, which means they are experts in a particular area, but may have difficulty managing day-to-day activities on their own.
A recent study shows that nearly 40 percent of 19- to 23-year-olds with ASD received little assistance after special education in high school. Study author Paul Shattuck, Ph.D., a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, says, “It’s like these young people are pushed off a cliff when they leave school.” Nearly seven years after high school graduation, one in three young adults with autism have no paid job experience, college or technical schooling. With roughly half a million autistic children reaching adulthood in the next decade, experts say it’s an issue policy makers urgently need to address.
Erik’s Minnesota Adventures tour guide program is poised to give adults with ASD meaningful options. Volunteer tour guests have an important role. By virtue of being guests on a tour, you provide tour guides with rewarding jobs. By listening and learning, volunteer guests help build tour guides’ self-esteem, self-worth and sense of accomplishment. These tours may sound simplistic, but they’re building stability for our tour guides: providing jobs, offering much-needed social stimulation, allowing them continued learning and growth as they build confidence, and more important, including them as productive, purposeful members of society.
*Subject to change. Exact times are listed on the registration form.
TJ's Penthouse Tour - Thursdays 6-9 p.m.
TJ's Architecture Tour - Saturdays 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Maddy's Canterbury Tour - Various Dates/Times
Tim's Boxing Tour - Tuesdays 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m
Erik's Eqine Encounter is available by special request