Well-being at the forefront of autism for nonprofit

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Leaders nationwide attended inaugural Learning Institute at the Princeton Public Library

Proof Positive, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the well-being of autistic people, launched its inaugural Learning Institute at the Princeton Public Library in June. Nationwide leaders in autism intervention attended the three-day immersion experience, learning about positive psychology and its application to the autism community.

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The Learning Institute jump started the nonprofit’s Autism Well-being Alliance, a close-knit group of autism professionals and organizations including Insight Behavior, Balance Autism, and Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, among others. For the next year, these national groups will receive resources from Proof Positive to be spread to the greater autism community.

“One of the most important lessons that we taught at the Learning Institute was the PERMA+ framework of well-being that stands for ‘Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment,'” Chief Executive Officer Patricia Wright said. “We need all five facets of this to promote well-being, so participants dug deep into each aspect of the PERMA+ model and left ready to utilize these skills to help work with their respective clients.”

Wright, an adjunct professor at Hunter College specializing in applied behavior analysis, is joined by Chief Well-being Officer Katie Curran, an autism clinician who holds a master’s degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Working at the intersection between positive psychology and autism intervention, they are driven by the mission to spread the science and skills of happiness to disabled and autistic individuals, a group that Curran says has not received the attention it deserves.

“In my twenty years training educators, politicians, and soldiers on positive psychology, it became apparent to me that the disability community, in general, has been left out of the well-being conversation,” Curran said. “Seeing a diverse group of leaders – people who had never before been exposed to positive psychology – coming together and unanimously accepting that well-being ought to be at the forefront of autism intervention was the highlight of the Learning Institute.”

Proof Positive was founded in 2021 by Princeton residents Joshua Kulkin and Christina Kirby who envisioned a world where people with autism and their families could benefit from the science of happiness. Watching their son Dylan, who has autism, advance from a period of desolation to a stage where he is happy, social, and mindful inspired the couple to share positive psychology with others in the autistic community.

With hundreds of users and free-to-use well-being and positive psychology resources, Proof Positive hopes to expand its Autism Well-being Alliance as far and wide as possible, thanks to its Princeton-based Learning Institute that it expects to make an annual event.

For more information about the new Autism Well-being Alliance and how to get involved visit proofpositive.org.

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