The Road to Self-Discovery: Navigating Success and Independence for Neurodivergent Young Adults

The Road to Self-Discovery: Navigating Success and Independence for Neurodivergent Young Adults 495 400 Advance LA
The Road to Self Discovery Meet Emma Belgard

The Road to Self-Discovery: Navigating Success and Independence for Neurodivergent Young Adults

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to acknowledge the transformative power of support and self-discovery within the neurodivergent community. This month serves as an empowering recognition of the strides made in navigating independence and embracing the unique paths of young adults with special needs.

Many Advance LA clients are recent high school or college graduates but for some graduating students on the spectrum, the future can seem confusing and overwhelming as they face the question of, “What happens next?” Facing this transition can sometimes cause those struggling with independence to withdraw and isolate as a coping mechanism, however for some, the proper support can make a world of a difference.

Meet Emma Belgard – a talented composer, pianist, and now, a thriving professional in the world of film, TV, and music composition. A few years ago, Emma was navigating the ups and downs of life as a neurodivergent young adult attending college. Her dad, Steve, who works as a job developer and employment specialist at the Bridgeport Vocational Center, suggested that Emma apply for the Advance LA program at The Help Group. Emma joined Advance LA (ALA) and connected with life coaches that helped her through weekly meetings, workshops, career goal setting, and practical and social skills development.

Through ALA’s guidance, Emma developed skills like self-care, independence, and decision-making. “They helped me learn how to do things on my own,” Emma said. Beyond that, ALA helped Emma practice social skills and build a foundation of strong friendships: “They helped me learn to be there for my friends the way they are for me.” One of her favorite memories from ALA is the cooking classes she took – learning how to cook on her own has helped her gain independence, plus she has a lot of fun exploring new recipes in the kitchen. ALA and Emma worked together to integrate her new practical skills into her college life and beyond, laying the groundwork for a future of successes in Emma’s academic, personal, and work life.

Emma’s confidence soared as she continued to explore her passions at the Los Angeles College of Music. During her senior recital, Emma conducted an orchestra as they performed an original piece of music she wrote. “It was life changing; hearing your piece live is an incredible experience,” she said as she reminisced on the recital. Emma’s talents shined through as she conducted a room of musicians with ease (see video here).
Emma graduated with a BA from the Los Angeles College of Music, ready to take on the professional world. Now, she spends her days working full time as a Video Media Composer at a studio in Burbank, channeling her creativity into crafting narratives through sound and visuals.

Emma is also helping her father in the final stages of producing his documentary titled “Schlitzie: One of Us,” a film that tells the stories of disabled individuals from diverse backgrounds. Emma wrote the score for the film and is editing it as well. She says, “I am getting powerful and emotional stories told through video, as well as having my music behind it. I am learning about [other people’s] cultures and their experiences as well.”

Reflecting on her ALA experience, Emma is grateful for the impact it had on her life. From learning to trust herself and her ability to succeed in school and her career, to building deeper connections with the world around her, we are so proud to see Emma continue to grow. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

To learn more about ALA and life skills coaching, reach out to Jeri Rochman at