Community Spotlight Sept 2018 Project Rex Building Social Emotional Skills in the Lowcountry
Project Rex is a treatment initiative dedicated to providing services, support and treatment to children and young adults diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and social anxiety that struggle socially.
Project Rex: Building Social Emotional Skills in the Lowcountry
by Jennifer Iamele Savage
Project Rex is a treatment initiative dedicated to providing services, support and treatment to children and young adults diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and social anxiety that struggle socially. Rex is affiliated with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) with the goal to help individuals reach their highest potential by enhancing social skills, the ability to understand emotions and adaptability.
Project Rex began in 2008. “A small group of MUSC therapists and I began noticing more and more patients with high-functioning autism presenting in clinic,” says founder Frampton Gwynette. “These are children who have lots of abilities, but also face significant social challenges, and often have few, if any, friends. We looked around Charleston for treatment programs that serve these families and were unable to find any, so we started Project Rex!”
Gwynette explains, “We have served hundreds of patients ages 5 and up and their families. We provide social skills training for patients, support and education for parents, and have recently started providing vocational skills training through our new program called the Autism News Network.”
In the last several years, Project Rex has embarked on exciting research projects related to technology and novel therapies, including delivering social skills training on Facebook and another online setting called virtual social motion, as well as bringing stimulation combined with social skills training for the treatment of adults with autism and depression.
“We also deliver educational presentations for parents and professionals, and recently hosted a daylong conference called Power to the Parents and also the Autism and You conference, in Pawleys Island, in April,” notes Gwynette.
Each year, Rex attracts volunteers that help in clinical and research efforts. “Charleston County School District instructional coach Amy Treneff is an example of how blessed we have been in that regard, as she volunteers her time each week teaching our young adults digital literacy skills in preparation for job opportunities,” he affirms.
Other volunteers comprise medical students, college interns and social work students. “These volunteers have been an instrumental part of our ability to serve such a large patient base,” says Gwynette. “In addition, numerous parents have volunteered over the years to help raise support for our program. We are so grateful to our program parents and are always seeking support from community members.”
Gwynette is confident that Project Rex is a great success. He says, “There's something to be said for being persistent in our dedication to patients and families. We believe that we are a hub or anchor for families to depend on through the lifetime of individuals with autism. It’s also important that our program regularly turns out scientific articles in the medical literature reporting on the work being done at Project Rex. Our next major goal is to focus on transition-age youth and grow along with them as we develop the Autism News Network for a mass audience.”
For more information, visit ProjectRex.org and Tinyurl.com/ProjectRexVideos.
Jennifer Iamele Savage is a transformational empowerment coach and secondary Montessori educator. For more information, visit InspirationAndBliss.com.