Program and Courses

The MINDS Young Adult program is a pilot program and represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between UVA’s School of Data Science, the UVA Brain Institute and the Supporting Transformative Autism Research (STAR) Initiative. This pilot program is being offered as part of a research study. All data will be kept confidential and will contribute to program improvement in subsequent years. The MINDS program consists of a phased approach:

  • Phase 1: Education and Social Skill Training
    10 months of noncredit coursework in data science and training in social skills and executive functioning (e.g., time-management, organization, conversation, handling disagreements). All curriculum components of the program can be completed virtually.
  • Phase 2: Job Training or Internship
    The experiential job training or internship component will begin Fall 2022. Given the unique circumstances of each individual, each situation will be customized based on their experience in Phase 1, their interests, and employer availability. 

Phase 1: Education/Social Skills Training   

Spring 2022 (format is virtual/online)

  • Data Science Fundamentals (noncredit) - Establish familiarity with Python coding environment and coding fundamentals; coverage of basic statistics; basic data exploration, data visualizations, dataframe manipulation.
  • Social Skills/Executive Functioning Development - Students meet in a small group once per week on a virtual platform (e.g., Zoom). Students learn and practice skills during the group and are supported in practicing skills between sessions. Students will learn to use the LifeSherpa app to support use of these skills.

Fall 2022 (format is virtual/online)

  • Data Science Projects (noncredit) - Increased focus on a combination of independent and small group project work with members of the cohort in Python possibly using open source data; Capture of project results in Github; efforts will be made to align project work with individual areas of interest.
  • Skills/Executive Functioning Development - Students meet in a small group once per week on a virtual platform (e.g., Zoom). Students learn and practice skills during the group and are supported in practicing skills between sessions. Students will learn to use the LifeSherpa app to support use of these skills.

Phase 2 - Job Shadowing/Internship

Fall 2022 - Spring/Summer 2023 (Flexible format/scheduling depending on the employer and the individual)

  • Participants will be paired up with employers for job shadowing and/or internship opportunities to provide workplace experience. This allows the employer and the participant to mutually evaluate one another to determine if the relationship could be successful on a long-term basis. 
  • Social skills application and support – During Fall 2022, participants will periodically meet virtually as a cohort to problem-solve social challenges that arise in the workplace and review skills.

Assessing Individual Growth & Future Program Development

Participants will be assessed several times throughout the program. 

  • Initial assessment as part of application process (in-person in Charlottesville, VA):
    The purpose of this assessment is to better understand the participant's strengths and weaknesses so that program fit can best be determined. This will include a cognitive and structured social skills assessments, as well as questionnaires about their social, emotional, and executive functioning skills. A parent or caregiver will be required to complete questionnaires. 
  • End of Phase 1 Assessment:
    At the end of Phase 1, after completion of data science coursework and group social skills programming, participants and their parent or caregiver will complete the same questionnaires. The purposes is to determine whether progress has been made in social skills and executive functioning, while guiding any additional support that may be necessary for participants during Phase 2. 
  • End of Phase 2 Assessment:
    Following Phase 2, participants and their parent or caregiver will again complete the same questionnaires in order to determine progress made and any additional areas for support. Employers will also complete questionnaires to provide feedback. 

This pilot program is being offered as part of a research study supported by Jefferson Trust grant funding.