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.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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