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ASD Treatment at Open Sky: Chris Blankenship, LCSW, to Oversee ASD Programming

Emily Fernandes, MSW | Executive Director, Co-Founder, Therapist

Featured Team Members: Chris Blankenship, LCSW


Through our evidence-based practices, diverse team dynamics, and emphasis on healthy living, Open Sky offers highly effective programming for students with neurodiverse profiles, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

In responding to needs of young people and families coming out of the pandemic, Open Sky has focused on refining and enhancing our programming to meet the needs of students with general social skills challenges as well as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This has included more specialized clinical training and field guide training, as well as supporting the recent Autism Symposium through therapist attendance and program sponsorship.

Chris Blankenship, Open Sky ASD TreatmentAs an additional step, we are excited to share that Chris Blankenship, Assistant Clinical Director and Senior Clinical Therapist, is taking a program-wide leadership role in further enhancing and supporting ASD programming at Open Sky. Chris’s exceptional nine-year tenure with Open Sky, coupled with his passion and expertise in working with ASD and related diagnoses, makes him the ideal choice to oversee Open Sky’s programming and therapeutic specialization with this population.

In this role to further support our ASD programming, Chris will oversee staff training, clinical consultation, and therapeutic curriculum for ASD students across all of Open Sky’s student populations. Chris will also continue to serve as a primary therapist for transition-age young adults as well as adolescent boys.

To learn more about Open Sky’s programming for students with neurodiverse profiles, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we invite you to read the overview below. For further questions, please reach out to our admissions team at admissions@openskywilderness.com or directly to Chris Blankenship at chris@openskywilderness.com.

CORE ELEMENTS OF OPEN SKY’S APPROACH TO ASD:

Evidence-Based Programming

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), widely recognized as an effective treatment modality for ASD, forms the foundation of treatment curriculum for all Open Sky students.
  • Mindfulness, a proven technique for alleviating ASD symptoms, is also a foundational aspect of Open Sky’s treatment model.
  • Therapists tailor individualized student assignments to address specific symptoms, such as interpersonal difficulties, cognitive rigidity, and struggles with transitions.

Diverse Team Composition

  • Open Sky promotes diversity by including neurotypical and neurodiverse students in all teams and populations to enable effective social modeling, social scripting, social practice, and feedback among team members.
  • Both neurotypical and neurodiverse students benefit from exposure to diverse peer groups, enhancing their understanding and ability to collaborate with individuals from different backgrounds.
  • The team structure at Open Sky more closely resembles real-world environments, facilitating the development of essential social skills required for successful reintegration.

Base Camp Model

  • Open Sky implements a hybrid base camp-expedition model, where students experience a schedule that mirrors real-life routines. They spend time away on expeditions (similar to work or school weeks) and return to base camp (similar to nights or weekends at home).
  • Students actively participate in creating schedules, establishing daily routines, and learning to adapt when disruptions occur.
  • Base camp provides a consistent and emotionally safe environment where students can practice regulating their emotions and preparing for challenges throughout their stay.

Healthy Living

  • The impact of nutritious food on mood and ASD symptoms is recognized by science. Open Sky nutritional offerings include fresh organic fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and locally raised meats.
  • Open Sky students do not consume processed, pre-packaged, or artificial foods, which can negatively affect mood, energy levels, and the ability to address ASD symptoms effectively.
  • Regular exercise, fresh air, and outdoor activities contribute to physical health, thereby enhancing the students’ ability to engage in managing ASD symptoms effectively.

May 29th, 2023

Emily Fernandes, MSW | Executive Director, Co-Founder, Therapist