Erik's Minnesota Adventures, and Erik's Montana Adventures, are innovative tour guide programs for young adults with autism. As tour guides, they lead guests on tours, providing an opportunity for them to showcase their unique talents and expertise in specific areas within the arts, history, sports, environment – whatever their passion.
What does it mean to be a guest?
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/Montana Adventures, it means building a person. Companies, groups or individuals volunteer to be guests on a guided tour (voluntourism). The guides are young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are passionate about their subject matter. Guests on that tour ultimately give our tour guides a place in society. As a 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 policymakers urgently need to address.
Erik’s Minnesota/Montana Adventures is poised to give adults with ASD meaningful options, where autism does not define them. Voluntourists have an important role: By virtue of being guests on a tour, you provide tour guides with rewarding jobs. By listening and learning, guests help build tour guides’ self-esteem, self-worth and sense of accomplishment. These tours build stability for our tour guides as they: 1) provide meaningful jobs; 2) cultivate and nurture much-needed social stimulation allowing our members continued learning and growth as they build confidence and 3) act as a catalyst for a worldwide advocacy platform where members are included as productive, purposeful members of society. As voluntourists begin to understand the depth and talents of this population, we believe they will become advocates in their neighborhoods, places of employment, schools, places of worship etc., and find creative ways to be inclusive of those on the autism spectrum.
What to Expect on a Tour
- In Minnesota, all tour guests are chauffeured in our private limo.
- Tours are co-presented by an expert young adult with autism and an assistant tour guide.
- No special skills or abilities are required to participate in tours.
- All proceeds from tour sales are used to cover the costs incurred, including training and wages for our members.
- Unless special arrangements have been made, all tours (except carriage rides) begin at either Erik's Retreat: 3420 Heritage Drive, Edina, MN, 55435 or the Lodge at Erik's Ranch: 273 Trail Creek Road, Livingston, MT, 59047
- In Minnesota, parking is available on the surrounding streets, but please make note of signs indicating time restrictions.
- OR, park in the far west end of the Tiffany building parking lot. The Tiffany building is located at 3456 Heritage Drive and is the last building on the north side of Heritage Drive.
Due to the cost of each tour, we require a minimum of two guests registered in order to proceed with a tour. We reserve the right to cancel tours 48 hours in advance due to low registration. All guests will be notified by email should a cancellation occur. Our tour guides take their jobs seriously and it is disheartening when tours are cancelled unexpectedly due to low volunteer participation. In addition, we allocate financial resources to each tour and incur lost funds when unscheduled cancellations occur. Therefore, we request that you cancel your registration for tours no later than 48 hours in advance (phone number will be provided in confirmation e-mail). We understand that emergencies occur and appreciate the earliest notice you can provide regarding cancellations. Thank you for your understanding and support! If Erik’s Ranch & Retreats needs to cancel for any reason, tour guests may select another tour (based upon availability).
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com or call 612-401-3080.