Autism Community Transition Program

Independent Ready

"...is a program designed specifically for high functioning individuals with autism who are looking to become Independent Ready."

-Ryan Groeneweg, Director of the Autism Community Transition Center

Who We Are

The Autism Community Transition (ACT) Center is a subdivision of the Village Northwest Unlimited (VNU), located in Sheldon, IA. VNU has a long and distinguished history of identifying and then developing programs for young adults in need of support. The ACT Center is the latest innovative program in a long line of successful endeavors by VNU striving to provide Purpose, Privacy, and Dignity to all that they serve.   

The ACT Center vision was created in response to the fastest growing class of disabilities in the world, autism. The rates of autism diagnosis at 1 in 59, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with alarming numbers of young adults with autism transitioning from high school to adulthood has resulted in a major challenge. Young adults on the autism spectrum and their families are discovering that funding and support is tragically limited, service providers are very difficult to locate, and educational and employment options are limited.  

VNU has created a path, where few has existed. The ACT Center is a program designed to be practical, affordable, and a critical path for young adults with high functioning autism to strive towards personal independence. 

What We Do

The ACT Center is comprised of a team of professionals, with specialized training in applied behavior analysis and autism, overseeing a one-of-a-kind program. We have developed a 2-year program aimed at addressing 3 critical, but functional areas that are important steps towards independence.

• Independent Living

  • During year 1 of the program, students will reside in a home with 3 other roommates. Our staff are trained as Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT's) and supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and are present during the evening and overnight hours providing instruction, feedback, and support to each student. The goal for year 1 is to teach all students the art of living on your own, which covers caring for your living space, caring for your personal space, caring for your hygiene, and managing personal budgets and finance.    
  • During year 2 of the program, students will transition to a less supervised setting, such as an apartment. There will no longer be staff present, but staff will provide daily drop-in support and continue to provide instruction, feedback, and support. This is a needed step in the development towards independence and provides an excellent opportunity to practice living independently. 

• Education

  • Students will be enrolled in the Learn4Independence curriculum. These are 32 courses developed by First Place, in Phoenix Arizona, with over 10 years of development with impressive research showing the curriculum to be highly effective in improving personal independence.  
  • Students will be enrolled in CNC Operator in Manufacturing classes at the Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC). The classes will provide industry level certification in CNC Operations, a position which is in high demand and offers very competitive pay and benefits. Additionally, students who complete these courses may be eligible to advance with the NCC Design and Technology Program, or potentially pursue a degree at a 4-year University. 

• Employment 

  • Armed with certification in CNC Operation courses and the Learn4Independence foundational skills, students will be pursuing employment when they enter the 2nd year of this program.  
  • Having the ability to financially support oneself is one of the true hallmarks of independence.   

Our Goal

In the words of Peter Gerhardt, the mission of autism education is to provide comprehensive, integrated, individualized, and data-based services to adults with autism resulting in independent employment, social inclusion, and community competence. As such, graduates will exit the program: 

  1. Not just employable but competitively employed full time.   
  2. Not just with social skills but with a social support network centered on where they live, work, and recreate.   
  3. Not just with the ability to follow directions but with the ability to initiate actions on their own.   
  4. Not just under our stimulus control but under the stimulus control of the environment and their ability to manage their own behavior.    

For additional information about the Village's ACT Program please contact

Ryan Groeneweg, Director of the ACT Center, ryang@villagenorthwest.or, 712-324-5417

For a full range of the Village's Autism services please contact

Jerry Postma, Director of Admissions, jerryp@villagenorthwest.org, 712-324-5403