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What is Autism Care & Support at Smoky Mountain Lodge?

Autism Care & Support at Smoky Mountain Lodge offers an ideal environment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to reconnect to nature, the outdoors, and animals while they experience healthy social engagement.

Dr. Julie Eberwein, Associate CEO and Clinical Administrator shares, “The treatment process in our program helps individuals explore vulnerabilities that interfere with self-awareness, acceptance, and growth, ultimately creating the opportunity to develop life strategies and inner-strength necessary for sustained success.”

Located on 25-acres in the Smoky Mountains, the program operates as a retreat-like setting that offers multi-sensory elements and experiences. Outdoor experiences include Cades Cove, Wears Valley Ranch, Little Pigeon River, and the Smoky Mountain National Park that gives individuals the opportunity to engage in hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding.

Who benefits from the program?

the stablesWe provide a comprehensive assessment process, that includes admission to Pasadena Villa Smoky Mountain Lodge. For admission, we require that individuals have a prior diagnosis of ASD with a recent decline in real world social functioning, work, school, social interactions with others, or self-care. Individuals also must be able to participate in the program and accomplish the program objectives.

“Our program focuses on the individual and their level of functionality and the potential for them to improve their vocational and employment skills and then apply those to the community. Therefore, admission depends on the specific needs of the individual and their family,” shares Dr. Eberwein.

As with care across the Pasadena Villa Psychiatric Treatment Network, the treatment team will work one-on-one with the individual and their family to customize a care plan with set goals and determine an appropriate transition date to the Autism Care & Support program.

How is this program different?

Dr. Eberwein states, “Pasadena Villa has a 20-year history of effectively treating clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and this program is an extension of that treatment.  Autism Care & Support program is all about self-sufficiency, autonomy, enhanced relationships, and communication as we identify strengths and create new opportunities for growth. This program fills the treatment gap as it relates to autism treatment, providing that link to those with autism to live independently in the community. “

We use the natural environment of the Smoky Mountains to engage our clients in evidence-based strategies and activities that improve their social functioning. The Pasadena Villa Social Integration Model is well-tested and draws from Social Learning Theory, Social Skills Training and field-tested models for eldercare. Adapting this model as part of our program targeting those with AS is a proven differentiating factor.

Additionally, each member of our staff at the program has extensive experience working with individuals with ASD. The assessment, diagnosis, and stabilization all happen at the Autism Care & Support program as part of the treatment process at Smoky Mountain Lodge. Unlike some programs, we offer a therapeutic foundation built on a solution-focused and family systems model. Our team members develop treatment plans utilizing evidence-based therapeutic strategies involving:

  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Social integration
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Collaborative Problem Solving
  • Mindfulness Activities

“Our staff uses these strategies to help clients engage them with one another, problem-solve, and communicate. These activities make the difference for in our vision of the program. With all the expertise we bring to the table, including our understanding of research, we can fill the treatment gap in a meaningful and innovative way,” says Dr. Eberwein.

Autism Care & Support at Smoky Mountain Lodge is also different in the continued support we provide to our clients and their families. Family work is an integral part of a client’s success, so for this reason, we provide opportunities for education and support. Therapists arrange family sessions twice monthly for family members to learn more about their loved one’s progress and care. Additionally, families can access resources and support through monthly training and education opportunities, an annual family retreat, and networking with the National Autism Center. We also continue to be a resource beyond our client’s episode of care, and our alumni network is also available as an additional source of support.

Finding Hope at Pasadena Villa

At Pasadena Villa, our goal is to consistently help our clients grow and heal. We understand the unique challenges that having ASD can bring, and that is why we have developed a program that is designed to meet those specific needs. Autism Care & Support at Smoky Mountain Lodge is designed to help individuals develop life strategies and the inner-strength need for lasting success and a life of independence.

If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. To learn more about our program, call us at
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