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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.

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

The TEACCH Method: Structured Teaching for Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Are you familiar with the TEACCH method for helping younger students on the autism spectrum? How does it work, and can it really help these ‘special needs’ students?”

Let's first look at the basic principles of TEACCH. They include the following:

1. physical structure refers to the child’s immediate surroundings; daily activities (e.g., playing and eating) work best when they are clearly defined by physical boundaries

2. having a consistent schedule is possible through various mediums (e.g., drawings and photographs)

3. the work system establishes expectations and activity measurements that promote independence (ideal work systems will communicate objectives with minimum written instructions)

4. routine is essential because the most important functional support for kids on the autism spectrum is consistency

5. visual structure involves visually-based cues for reminders and instruction

The TEACCH method emphasizes structure and has come to be called “structured teaching.” Structured teaching is comprised of three components, (1) teaching methods, (2) physical organization, and (3) scheduling:

1. Teaching Methods— Teaching methods are all behaviorally based. The goal for all programs is to maximize independence. This component includes antecedent and consequence strategies:

Antecedent strategies include:
  • using clear and concise language
  • providing prompts which are student-specific and effective
  • prompting only as much as necessary before a student responds incorrectly
  • presenting materials in an organized manner
  • getting student attention before giving instructions

Consequence strategies employed include:
  • basing reinforcer selection on student preference and motivation
  • clearly defining consequences/reinforcers
  • giving clear feedback regarding correct and incorrect responses
  • giving frequent reinforcers
  • providing reinforcers immediately following the desired behavior



2. Physical Organization— This component should include the following:
  • “teacher only” materials should be inaccessible
  • all areas should be free of clutter and/or broken items
  • play areas should not be located near exits to decrease the likelihood of the child leaving the classroom
  • the classroom should be clearly laid out so the children know where they are supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing
  • there should be adequate space for independent and group work
  • work and play areas should be well organized with all relevant materials available
  • work areas should be arranged in the least distractible setting
  • work areas should be clearly marked so the child can independently find his or her way to different locations within the classroom independently, and the boundaries within those areas should be clearly marked

3. Scheduling— There are two levels of scheduling that are crucial to the structured teaching method – the daily classroom schedule, and the individual schedule:

The daily classroom schedule allows teachers and students to clearly know what will be happening during the day and should balance opportunities for individual, independent, group and leisure activities throughout the day.

Individual students should also have smaller schedules within scheduled activities to clearly define the expectations during the class period. The individual schedules:
  • should be a clear and consistent signal in the classroom which indicates time for a transition (e.g., timer, teacher instruction, student monitors clock, etc.)
  • should contain information about which teachers and/or assistant will be in which area
  • should help the student transition by letting him or her know where to be and what to do
  • should inform the child about where and when to begin and end tasks

The developers of this method have based their model on the idea that to effectively teach children on the autism spectrum, teachers must provide high levels of structure (i.e., they should set up the classroom so that these children understand where to be, what to do, and how to do it – all as independently as possible). As mentioned above, important aspects of structured teaching include:
  • visually structured activities
  • visual schedules
  • structured work/activity systems
  • routines with flexibility
  • predictable sequence of activities
  • organization of the physical environment

With the TEACCH method, there is an emphasis on both (a) improving skills of young people with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, and (b) modifying the environment to accommodate their deficits. Several reports have documented progress in kids who have received TEACCH services, as well as parent satisfaction and improvement in parent teaching skills.

In a controlled trial, researchers discovered that kids treated with a TEACCH-based home program for 4 months (in addition to their local day treatment programs) improved significantly more than kids in the control group who received local day treatment services only.


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

Psychotherapy versus Pharmacotherapy in Treating Asperger's and HFA

“What are your thoughts on psychotherapy versus pharmacotherapy for children with Asperger syndrome?”

Focused and structured psychotherapy can be very helpful in treating children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), particularly in the context of the following:
  • anxiety
  • family functioning
  • frustration in regard to education and vocational goals 
  • meltdowns
  • negativism
  • overwhelming experiences of sadness
  • social adjustment



Although little information about pharmacological interventions for children with Asperger’s and HFA is available, a conservative approach based on the evidence from autism should probably be adopted. In general, pharmacological interventions for kids on the spectrum are probably best avoided. Specific medication might be indicated if Asperger’s or HFA is accompanied by a thought disorder, severe obsessions and compulsions, or debilitating depressive symptoms.

It is important for moms and dads to know that medications are prescribed for the treatment of specific symptoms associated with Asperger’s and HFA, and not to treat the disorder in-and-of itself.


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... "Specific medication might be indicated if Asperger’s or HFA is accompanied by a thought disorder, severe obsessions and compulsions, or debilitating depressive symptoms"  ...Depression and anxiety can be because of they way neuro typicals treat aspergers people.
•    Anonymous said... Finding s good therapist that really gets Asperger's is easier said than done. I often feel like I sm telling the therapists what to look for.
•    Anonymous said... I feel like that with every professional and support person we deal with.

Please post your comment below…

Early Childhood Intervention for Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism

“What are the most important treatment strategies or program goals for treating younger children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism?”

Although treatment programs may differ in philosophy and emphasis on particular treatment strategies, they share many common goals. There is a growing consensus that important components of effective early childhood intervention for Asperger’s and HFA include the following:
  • entry into treatment as soon as a diagnosis is “seriously considered” rather than deferring until a “definitive” diagnosis is made
  • functional adaptive skills that prepare the youngster for increased responsibility and independence
  • functional, spontaneous communication skills
  • implementation of techniques to apply learned skills to new environments and situations (i.e., generalization) and to maintain functional use of these skills
  • in the educational setting, low student-to-teacher ratio to allow sufficient amounts of one-on-one time and small-group instruction to meet specific individualized goals
  • inclusion of a family component, including parent training
  • incorporation of a high degree of structure (e.g., predictable routine, visual activity schedules, clear physical boundaries to minimize distractions, etc.)
  • ongoing measurement and documentation of the youngster's progress toward educational objectives, resulting in adjustments in programming when needed
  • promotion of opportunities for interaction with “typically developing” peers to the extent that these opportunities are helpful in addressing specified educational goals
  • provision of intensive intervention with active engagement of the youngster at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year
  • provision of developmentally appropriate educational activities designed to address identified objectives
  • reduction of disruptive or maladaptive behavior by using empirically supported strategies, including functional assessment (see below)
  • social skills (e.g., joint attention, imitation, reciprocal interaction, initiation, self-management, etc.)
  • traditional readiness skills and academic skills as developmentally needed
  • use of assessment-based curricula that address cognitive skills (e.g., symbolic play, perspective taking, etc.)



Applied Behavior Analysis—

One of the most important methods for treating younger children with Asperger’s and HFA is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is a process used to systematically change behavior and to demonstrate that the interventions used are responsible for the observable improvement in behavior. ABA techniques are used to:
  • generalize behaviors to new environments and situations
  • increase and maintain desirable adaptive behaviors
  • narrow the conditions under which maladaptive behaviors occur
  • reduce interfering maladaptive behaviors
  • teach new skills

ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior within relevant settings (e.g., home, school, community, etc.). The effectiveness of ABA in treating children with Asperger’s and HFA has been well documented through five decades of research by using single-subject methodology and in controlled studies of comprehensive early behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings. Kids on the spectrum who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make significant and sustained gains in academic performance, adaptive behavior, IQ, language, and social behavior. Also, outcomes have been significantly better than those of kids in control groups.

Discrete Trial Training—

Comprehensive early intervention programs for kids on the autism spectrum (e.g., Young Autism Project) rely heavily on Discrete Trial Training (DTT) methodology, but this is only one of many techniques used within the field of ABA. DTT methods are useful in establishing learning readiness by teaching foundation skills (e.g., attention, compliance, imitation, discrimination learning, etc.). This methodology has been criticized because (a) there have been problems with generalization of learned behaviors to spontaneous use in natural environments, and (b) the highly structured teaching environment is not representative of natural adult-child interactions. However, traditional ABA techniques have been modified to address these issues. Thus, DTT is still a very useful tool in the therapist’s toolbox.

Functional Behavior Analysis—

Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) is an important aspect of behaviorally-based treatment of unwanted behaviors in children with Asperger’s and HFA. Most problem behaviors serve an adaptive function of some type and are reinforced by their consequences (e.g., attainment of adult attention; attainment of a desired object, activity, or sensation; escape from an undesired situation or demand). FBA is an empirically-based method of gathering information that can be used to maximize the effectiveness of behavioral support interventions. It includes:
  • formulating a clear description of the problem behavior
  • identifying the frequency and intensity of the problem behavior
  • identifying the antecedents, consequences, and other environmental factors that maintain the behavior
  • developing hypotheses that specify the motivating function of the behavior
  • collecting direct observational data to test the hypothesis

FBA also is helpful in identifying antecedents and consequences that are associated with increased frequency of desirable behaviors so that they can be used to evoke new adaptive behaviors.

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

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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."

Click here to read the full article…

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.

Click here
to read the full article...

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.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content