Our students want a college experience, an education, and a job- they want a life. We partner with these students who are capable and who need specific supports to thrive and maximize independence and self-reliance. We build a personalized approach to each students needs and implement a plan for their success socially, emotionally, educationally, and professionally.
WHO WE ARE
As founders and partners of TFL, we are first and foremost family oriented parents, who are professionals. We have parented our own young adults and teens. We want for TFL’s young adult’s the same quality of life as our own children. Safety and success are extremely important.
Jason Grygla, LCMHC, MA
Executive Director, Founder, Partner
Jason is an experienced Mental Health clinician of 15 years. He started long before that working in group homes for very difficult boys. He worked in juvenile detention, as a Juvenile Probation Officer, and eventually as a licensed therapist. He became the Clinical Director and Office Manager of a social services agency for several years before opening a successful private practice. He wrote and ran therapeutic workshops for trauma and addiction. His expertise included parenting difficult adolescents and transitioning young adults. He supervised support groups and ran informative teaching sessions for support team members. He most recently worked as a therapist and the Clinical Director at Kolob Canyon RTC before helping to create TFL.
Jason’s most significant work experience comes from his personal life. He and his wife were foster and adoptive parents of special needs boys. Two of them have significant issues in the areas TFL focuses on and both are transitioning slowly, with set-backs, but overall progressing into adult life. He knows what neuro- Atypical young adults struggle with and need. He understands what parents are going through and he has a passion for this specific work and focus. Jason will be running the everyday life at TFL, including the social and emotional side including recreation, social and life skills, as well as mental health support into school and work settings for professional success. He feels strongly that no one is left behind and that all are included and accepted into the family circle at TFL.
Tech Advisor, Co Founder, Partner
Eric Pedersen has served as a faculty member in the Computer and Information Technology Department at Dixie State University since 1989. He is currently the Dean of the School of Science & Technology. He teaches web development and tech entrepreneurship at DSU. Pedersen has also held numerous leadership roles on campus as he was director of the institution’s business and development resource center from 1989-94, director of the center of excellence for computer graphics, and served as dean of continuing education at Dixie State from 1994-97. Pedersen received his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems at Utah State University and has conducted extensive work in tech entrepreneurship. He also holds degrees in Business, Economics and Spanish.
In addition to his academic career, Pedersen is a successful entrepreneur. He directed a research team that developed and launched the first website in Utah. In addition, he co-founded InfoWest, the first regional internet service provider in southern Utah, along with several other tech companies.
WHO OUR STUDENTS ARE
Many of our students are described as neuro a-typical, developmentally different, higher functioning ASD, Socially or emotionally immature, or non-diagnosed low functioning. They are typically several years behind their peers in one or more ways. Often they are described as odd or different. We love these unique attributes and use them as strengths to be better employees. Many don’t have social savvy or awareness. Some may have processing issues or learning disabilities causing delay, although they are typically intelligent in certain areas with higher IQs. Most of our students have issues that ultimately create situations where they hit their adult mind shift later than most or they “hit their stride” later in life. Our students have a need to live away from home or have a college life experience, but need support and structure educationally, socially and emotionally to be successful. Many of our students describe struggling in their peer environments, or aren’t able to join typical peer circles. They are capable of learning and grasping some intellectual concepts in tech or similar areas. Our students want to be adults even if they have anxiety about independence and don’t have the ability to create a path forward. Many are afraid and apprehensive, or even sabotage their opportunities. Anxiety and some depression would be normal, but we are not a clinically intensive program for these types of issues. Our student’s profiles tend to respond better to group supports, success focused approaches and mentoring, more than cognitive behavioral therapies where insight is critical, although motivational interviewing techniques are used by our professional staff.
Due to the vulnerable and impressionable nature of our students, we are careful to avoid accepting students who could take advantage of others, those who are aggressive, oppositional, or unwilling to try and “join” the program. As adults, our students must be willing to attend TFL. Most of our students will have some struggles and apprehensions, so we work hard with them and their support system to transition them into TFL. If our students didn’t have some difficult issues, our program wouldn’t be needed. We take a very close look at, and carefully choose appropriate applicants to protect our effective environment. We take the safety of our students very seriously. Safety includes physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, sexually and spiritually. Our students often need to build their identity and self-esteem as adults in flux, and a safe environment is non-negotiable at TFL.
Not all of our students are diagnosed, but if there have been diagnosis, our students often fit into the following areas:
- ASD Level 1 (including previously diagnosed Aspergers) and its commonly related issues such as anxiety or depression
- Academic issues due to organizational or other issues
- Non-Verbal Learning Disorder
- Social Phobias/Immaturity
- OCD or tourette’s tendencies
- Some Developmental Disorders
- 100 or higher IQ is typical, some score much higher in IQ with other issues
- ODD related to social anxieties, including rigidity
WHERE YOU’LL GO
There are many transition schools or programs that help young adults find themselves and give them adventure, life experiences and time to mature. What many young adults aren’t getting is a transition into a self-sustaining life. Many will need ongoing support after landing a job to be successful.
Our college experience offers only the skills they need, like a vocational school, without overwhelming them with extra courses and expectations. There is a market for skilled coders and software designers and we provide the means to get them there. Many software companies are recognizing the benefits of hiring our A-typical TFL student. Our graduates generally are very capable in their skill sets, loyal, consistent and although they need some specialized support in their job, they often can excel in ways a typical employee can’t. Our students can be awkward or odd- those are code words for extraordinary and eccentric which can mean specialized skill sets that average employees don’t have. Many employees with our student profile are being sought out as employees, such as SAP and Microsoft.
We serve those who need metaphorical “software patches” for the move from adolescence into adulthood and occupation. We are a fusion school of marketable skills and creating a life of value, an alloy of technological education and life experiences. We focus on diverse skills from creative web design and coding software, to healthy sustainable relationships and dating. Our students usually need both.
We give students a way to build their path forward. TFL’s evidence-based program includes repetition, modeling, and lots of patient, clear teaching and mentoring. We walk with them into successful adult life. It is a structured wrap-around approach for success. We are a school-family that works hard and plays hard, where all are integrated and work to help each person to find a place within our circle and in the professional world.
Each student will be able to earn certificates in specific skill areas, and generally be trained with classroom and experiential learning to be prepared for an internship. We try to have the learning and classroom portion of TFL completed in 9 to 12 months to be ready for an internship. Internships are the most ways to be hired into a software company. Internships can last anywhere from 3-12 months depending on individual circumstances.
“The biggest issue is not academics. It’s navigating the social environment and having the independent living skills necessary to be away at college.” (Dr. VanBergeijk) We teach tech and life skills for independent living at TFL.
We can’t be in the classroom all the time… Nor would we want to. We believe in balancing work with reward, and responsibility with freedom. We “play” as well as we do tech.
Our program is set up to support and encourage life as well as career. Outside of the classroom, we promote musical interest, gaming, talents, hobbies, interests, travel and recreation- We have life days every Wednesday, when no classes are scheduled and a day trip or activity is planned. We might go to a tech event, have a video game tournament, see a Dixie College game, visit an anime conference, attend a concert, join the community theater, take guitar lessons, take advantage of the beautiful areas and national parks nearby- the possibilities are endless. The students plan and execute the activity days- they are in charge.
Our events push students out of their comfort zones and enhance their interests and identities. For example, our students have often had negative experiences with technology, so we engage them in positive electronic use like video game building and healthy tech use. We even give awards for learning to hack a computer system and find the security flaws. Who doesn’t want to build robots or a video games? Once every 6 weeks we go on a longer retreat or trip, such as attending tech conferences in Silicon Valley, camping at Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon, or attending robot wars in California. We have a music room for piano, guitar and drums, a designated video game room and a large rec. room at the Nest for hanging out. Studies show that symptoms of atypical personalities are reduced when they are outdoors and having physical fitness- our objective is to make it a pleasure, not a chore.