Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


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Programs for Older Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Frequently, the focus of specialized programs for children with Asperger's and High Functioning Autism (HFA) is on early childhood. Unfortunately, published research evaluating educational programs for older kids and teens on the autism spectrum is lacking. However, there is empirical support for the use of certain educational strategies for this older group of children, particularly those that are based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Such strategies should be employed across all age groups to generalize behaviors to new environments or situations, to increase and maintain desirable adaptive behaviors, to reduce interfering maladaptive behaviors (or narrow the conditions under which they occur), and to teach new skills.

Middle School—

When kids with Asperger’s and HFA move beyond preschool and early elementary programs, educational intervention should continue to involve adaptation of teaching strategies as necessary to enable these “special needs” children to acquire target skills. The intervention should also include an assessment of existing skills, an assessment of progress, the formulation of individualized goals and objectives, and the selection and implementation of appropriate intervention strategies and supports.

The focus on achieving emotional and behavioral regulation, social communication competence, and functional adaptive skills necessary for independence should continue during middle school. Educational programs should be individualized to address the specific impairments and needed supports while capitalizing on the youngster's assets, rather than being based on a particular diagnostic label.

Specific goals and objectives – and the supports that are required to achieve them – should be listed in the youngster's individualized education plan (IEP) and should be the driving force behind decisions regarding the most appropriate, least restrictive classroom placement. Appropriate settings may range from self-contained special education classrooms to full inclusion in regular classrooms.

Often, a mix of specialized and inclusive experience is appropriate. Even highly functioning children on the autism spectrum often require accommodations and other supports (e.g., social communication skills training, provision of explicit directions, organizational supports, modification of classroom and homework assignments, and access to a computer and word-processing software for writing tasks). Also, sexuality education instruction should be included.

When an aide is assigned, it is important that there be an infrastructure of expertise and support for the youngster beyond the immediate presence of the aide. The aide should receive adequate training, specific duties of the aide should be outlined, and the strategies to be used should be defined.

High School—

In the teenage years, the term “transition” is used to describe the movement from child-centered activities to adult-oriented activities. The major transitions are from the school environment to the workplace, and from home to community living. In schools, transition-planning activities may begin as early as 14 years of age. By 16 years of age, the IEP should include an individualized transition plan. The emphasis may shift from academic to vocational services, and from remediating deficits to fostering abilities.

A vocational assessment is often conducted to evaluate the Asperger’s or HFA teen's interests and strengths, and to determine the services and supports needed to promote independence in the workplace and in the community. Comprehensive transition planning involves the teen, the mom and dad, educators, and representatives from all concerned community agencies.

After High School—

Depending on the older teen's unique traits (e.g., cognitive level, social skills, health condition, work habits, behavioral challenges, etc.), preparation for competitive, supported, or sheltered employment should be targeted. Regardless of the type of employment, attention to skill development should never stop. Skills necessary for independent living should be taught to the degree possible given the abilities of the teen.

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My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content