“Skills for Life” for Youth: An Interview with Brooke Howard (Sargent ’05)

Brooke Howard is a graduate of the Master’s of Occupational Therapy program at Sargent College. She is the Executive Director of the Ivy Street School, a school for neurodivergent youth, where she co-developed and oversees their “Skills for Life” program.

Skills for Life provides OT services for individuals 16 and over with a focus on young adults. The program uses a disability justice framework and strengths-based interventions to support young adults in identifying and achieving their goals. Additionally, Ivy Street has recently opened a community-based residence for 22- to 26-year-olds. The residence is a 3-bedroom apartment and provides 24-hour staff and a daytime nurse to support young adults who manage chronic health conditions in addition to challenges related to mental health.  The program provides a scaffolded environment, including structure and routines for their day-to-day life, and hours of OT provided by Skills For Life. The main goal of the program is to build opportunities for youth to leverage their strengths to build skills for independence and interdependence in preparation for their next steps.

Brooke has many different takeaways from her time working at Ivy Street. One important lesson is that the best educators about how to work with neurodivergent youth are the youth themselves. She stresses how important it is for clinicians to listen to the youth and their families and learn from their lived experiences. Clinicians must be allies to the clients they serve and support their right to self-determination.