WHY Pacia Life? Randy Oakley shares some history that led to the creation. Each chapter has been shortened for the sake of reader enjoyment. Longer versions with more details are available.
Vantage Point - A key to Pacia Life
Every Pacia Life location now has hired and/or trained coaches to work with high functioning autism, learning disabilities, and more!
To be honest, I still don’t like some of the labels of it all, but they do help us understand each human soul and how to support them better.
My college degree in recreation focuses on helping anyone with a challenge or disability, physical or mental, to live a rich and full life!
Over the years, I had a handful of foster children on the spectrum. At West Ridge Academy, we had numerous ASD students. To be honest, I really enjoyed working with each of them.
In 1996, Alan Proctor from LDS family services handed over a summer camp called Sunshine Solutions to the Utah Boys Ranch. For the next nine years, I was in charge of running this eight-week summer camp. Most of the children came from low-income families. And, a vast majority of them were ASD.
For the older kids, we spent one of the eight weeks camping and canyoneering in Robbers Roost in central Utah. It took us four days to hike the 16 miles and navigate the five rappels with the Sunshine Solutions groups. Each year, I lead the girl’s group. Dave Ward led the boy’s group.
Each year, we gave each other a high five at the end of the trip as we knew that each of these teenagers had basically climbed their own personal Mount Everest.
In 2004, Dave and I took a neurotypical boys group from the E-Home of the Utah Boys Ranch. We planned a four-day trip. We completed the 16 miles, five rappel trip in one day. Dave and I laughed at ourselves as we had only done Robbers Roost with ASD students previously.
Learning lesson - ASD young adults can do anything! They just need more time and the right supports.
When Aspiro was born in 2005, the therapeutic industry wasn’t using wilderness adventure therapy (WAT). Some educational consultants started to share their perception that because Aspiro was not focused on a nomadic bow drill model, that Aspiro was a “softer” program.
Over time, we all laughed about the label of being a “softer program.” In my opinion, our early groups in Aspiro were busting out over 100 miles in a single week, climbing some of Utah’s highest mountain peaks, rock climbing, canyoneering, paddling over 100 miles on Lake Powell, etc. One of our girls groups actually canoed the full 185 miles length of Lake Powell. Not exactly a "soft wilderness program."
However, we started to get a number of Asperger syndrome or more properly said, ASD referrals. Somehow, educational consultants began to think that sending ASD students to a “softer program” like Aspiro was the right fit. But when you think about the clinical challenges some of these students have, especially in a wilderness setting, Aspiro was quickly becoming one of the more clinically sophisticated models in the industry.
In reality, because of my previous experience along with significant experience of our clinical director at the time, Justin Robinson, working with ASD students in the wilderness was natural. But, at one point, we did have numerous discussions about the need to create specialized groups with guides that have additional training.
Around this time one, Corbin Lindie who is one of the owners of a small group of programs that included Daniels Academy approached me about Daniels Academy struggling. He offered Aspiro 50% ownership and for us to take over Daniels Academy’s management. I moved Justin Robinson from being the clinical director of Aspiro to become the executive director of Daniels Academy.
In the same time, Dr. Gordon Day approached me and Brian Church with his own dream of running a specialized wilderness program for ASD students.
Aspiro Vantage Point was officially created.
All of these experiences have become significant in the development of Pacia Life and the services today. Many of our coaches have worked in Aspiro and Aspiro Vantage Point in the past.
But more importantly, every Pacia Life location now has hired and/or trained coaches to work with high functioning autism, learning disabilities, and more!