Doug Meeker calls himself a corporate refugee. His son’s diagnosis with autism in 2003 pushed him off the corporate bandwagon and into the launch what he calls a “quest”: Life Sherpa.
The Reston-based app turns smartphones into personal trainers, giving young adults with executive functioning challenges like his 15-year-old son a step-by-step behavioral training program to traverse their day.
The concept is inspired by the Sherpas, an ethnic minority group in Eastern Nepal who have helped travelers like Edmund Hillary — the first person to climb Mt. Everest — navigate the treacherous mountain terrain.
The app’s main objective is to help young adults gain life skills as they transition into adulthood. It has drawn a diverse team of organizers, including members in Romania and India, who are united in their effort to help young adults overcome executive functioning challenges.
“The thing that keeps parents up at night is what happens they become adults. We can teach job skills to this population all day long, but… if they don’t have the basic life skills, it’s very hard to retain the job skills,” Meeker said. “The question comes down to this: How can we help this population gain more self-reliance?”
The app allows caregivers, therapists, counselors, school administrators and other stakeholders involved with the user to remotely monitor and measure their client’s progress.
But Meeker says the app’s goal was never to replace in-person human interaction critical to people’s success.
“What we really want to do is help the innovators scale their efforts. The more we can help them do that, the more we can free up resources to help more kids,” Meeker said.
Close to 100 clients are registered on the platform since its soft launch last in February last year.
Meeker said he believes the app will be successful because it draws on individual’s skills like close attentiveness to detail and the ability to solve complex problems.
The app also generates metrics and analytics to track client’s progress — departing from the days when clipboards and stopwatches were the primary tools for recording progress. Life Sherpa also uses consistent phrases and directions that are critical for successful behavioral therapy, he said.
Meeker hopes the app will continue to help young adults like his son — who is also a cancer survivor — transition into adult life.
“This is a personal quest. It’s all about creating ways for the individual to be independent and still be connecting to the people that are supporting them,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Doug Meeker
Property values, loss of tree canopy, concerns for children’s safety: these were some of the issues brought up by a concerned group of homeowners at a public information meeting held on May 12 at the Reston Community Center.
Reston Association is considering a proposal from Milestone Communications to allow construction of a 115′ monopole in Hunters Woods Park. Milestone has created a website for this project, Hunters Woods Wireless Pole.
The proposal is to lease RA land at the north end of the soccer field for the pole and its accompanying ground equipment (consisting of up to 4 – 12×20 buildings). Payment would be a percentage of revenue that the monopole supplier receives from a wireless carrier.
The Milestone representative said the average expected revenue is approximately $12,000 per year per carrier. The monopole can support up to 4 carriers (AT&T to be the first), so presumably revenue to RA could be over $48,000 per year. Should this proposal pass through the Reston Association Design Review Board, a zoning application will be filed with Fairfax County.
The following is a list of important meetings that should be attended if you wish to make your opinion heard. If you can’t attend, send an email, or both. It counts!
Monday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.
Reston Planning and Zoning Committee
North County Government Center (map), Community Room
12000 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston
The agenda can be viewed here. The P&Z committee reports to Supervisor Hudgins. Attending this meeting or emailing will let her know how you feel about the project. Parking note – carpool if you can. Due to construction, parking is very limited. Email is [email protected] and suggested subject line is Hunter Woods Park Monopole – Reston.
Thursday, May 29, 6 p.m.
Reston Association Board Meeting
Conference Center, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston
Must sign in to be allowed 3 minutes (sometimes the limit is 2 minutes; prepare for the shorter time) during the public comment session. Five minutes if you represent a group such as a Cluster, PTA, etc. You should also email your concerns to [email protected] with a cc to [email protected] (CEO Cate Fulkerson). Subject line should be Hunter Woods Park Monopole.
Tuesday, June 17, 7-9 pm
Design Review Board Meeting
Conference Center, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston
Milestone Communications will present their plan for DRB approval
At the May 12 information meeting, we were told that if the proposal does not pass DRB approval, it would not move forward. To be guaranteed a chance to speak you must register as an Affected Party.* To do so, contact Margo Collins, Reston Association Covenants Advisor, at [email protected] or (703) 435-7994 to submit a statement of your concerns. The statement must include your name and Reston address and may be submitted directly to Ms. Collins via email. Individuals are given three minutes; group representatives are given five. Emails should also be sent to [email protected]with subject of Hunter Woods Park Monopole.
This information is provided as a community service. Please feel free to contact me.
Director, Hunters Woods District
Reston Citizens Association
Photo: Cell phone towers at South Lakes High School/file photo