Recently I was invited to speak in Sarnia, Canada – which is across the border from Detroit. The conference organized by the Jumpstart Lambton Kent Teen Transition committee was entitled “Clarity, Please!” and was about the transition to adulthood. They launched a new website which has lots of relevant information and will make it easier for families and teens with special needs to find the help they need. As well, there is a partnership with Ability Online, a free monitored, supportive, online community for kids, teens and young adults of all abilities.
I love presenting at different conferences around the planet as it gives me the opportunity to hear the experiences of different families, organizations, and the young adults who are on a mission to create the life they dream of. I presented on Autism Life Skills and A Full Life with Autism – information that is valid for any person with a developmental disability. At “Clarity Please!” There was a panel of young adults and their families who talked about their transition to adulthood and how that was going. Although all the stories were different, there were some traits that all the families shared. These were:
the parents were strong advocates
they raised their children to have good self esteem
they made connections in the community
they partnered with helpful agencies
the young adults had learned to be advocates for themselves
they encouraged their young adult to work towards creating the life they dreamed of, even if it was different from what the parents had imagined for their adult child.
Karen Holland and David Schaller of Pathways Health Centre
At each conference there are always some touching and funny moments. My most embarrassing moment at the conference was when I mistook the mayor of Sarnia and a member of parliament (who were sitting at the presenter’s table with me) as upcoming members on the family panel. I thought it was funny when Dave Schaller, Manager of Family and Community Services at Pathways Health Centre for Children recapped the day saying my talk was “at times funny but always real.” That’s how I feel about trying to access services for my son, Jeremy!
The most touching moment for me was at the end of the day. A father walked over and gave me a flower – fashioned from pipe cleaners that had been placed on each table along with other fidget items. “Here,” he said “My son made this for you.” Instances like this make the traveling to share information all worthwhile.
Often I get emails from people asking for advice. This is one I get often, so I’m posting it here.
Can an adult or teenager still benefit from ABA therapy, music therapy, auditory integration therapy? How beneficial is vision therapy and auditory therapies? Are there research studies or evidence based studies supporting these therapies?
Sincerely, Sheila in Jacksonville
I know we often hear about that ‘window of opportunity’ being open during the early years, and it is true that early intervention has been shown as being the most effective intervention to help children with autism acquire skills. However, that window does not shut after a certain age. One thing we also know is that there is such a thing as neuroplasticity, which means the brain can continue to change and improve, which is why an old dog can learn new tricks.
You are right to look at the research, but when looking at different therapies it is also important to look at the person you are trying to help, and see if he has the characteristics of the type of person who has benefited from those therapies. When looking up information in regards to treatments and therapies, as well as research findings, remember to look carefully at who is providing the information (some websites have information but do not tell you the source of the information), how the research was carried out, and who is reporting it. Also, adults on the spectrum may be able to tell you what their experiences have been with different therapies.
For information on the effectiveness of many treatments and therapies on adolescents, as well as reputable websites for current information, see my book Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum.
In early October I was invited by the Family Resource Network in Oneonta, New York to present for six hours on A Full Life with Autism: Preparing for the Real World. It was a pleasure to meet everyone there and I promised to post some resources here in regards to puberty, hygiene and sexuality. I have added a few in regards to bullying and abuse as well.
Are you a parent (or educator) of a pre-teen or teen? Do you wonder about how and when to explain puberty to your growing child? Are you at a loss about what to explain about the birds and the bees? Are you wondering what an ITP is and how to best prepare your child or student for adult life? Then the course Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum is for you.
Based on the award-winning book, more recent information, and Chantal Sicile-Kira’s popular national presentations, this interactive course will be taught on-line to a small group on Tuesday August 28, Wednesday August 29, Thursday August 30; from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm PST (9:00-11:00 EST) for a fee. To sign up, go here. Instructions will be sent to you within 24 hours of sign up.
The cost for the 6 hour- course over three days is $99.00 and provides:
6 hours of training
PowerPoints provided before the webinars to help with note taking.
The basics on what you need to know when your child or student (of different ability levels) is a pre-teen or teenager
Resources for more information on various topics
Opportunity for the participants to write in or call in their questions to Chantal.
BONUS: Written transcript booklet from the original live course provided in March will be provided to those who sign up (a $39.00 value – see description in the Autism College store)
BONUS: Opportunity to watch replay of webinar at a later date (convenient if you miss a session).
Topics to be covered during the 6 hours include:
Adolescence 101: The Teen Basics :Everything you need to know (but don’t know who to ask)
13 things every parent or educator needs to know
The general challenges faced by ASD teenagers
Sensory processing challenges in adolescence
Functional strategies to help with daily transitions
Family and sibling concerns
Teaching about puberty
Hygiene and self-care
Adolescence 102: Relationships: It’s Complicated
The notion of privacy and consent
Adolescence 103: The Transition Years: Plan, Prepare, Practice for the Real World of Adult Life
Preparing the transition to High school
The ITP- Individual Transition Program and IEPs
Teaching life skills needed for work and / or college: self-esteem, self-advocacy, executive functioning, self-reliance
Building on strengths
The use of mentors
Sign up now to reserve your spot! Questions? Send us an email!
This marvelous book lays out in plain and readable language the challenges of transition to adulthood for persons with autism and offers practical advice from the inside perspective of a mom and her adult son teamed as partners in the enterprise of helping him achieve a meaningful life.
It is inspirational, almost a parable, in its effect of drawing you into their story and teaching important principles, and yet it is also comprehensive in the executive task of helping us think about our values, goals and objectives in our mission to give a real life to our adults with autism and related challenges.
Perhaps one of the most important messages: behavior is a form of communication, and it is incumbent on the people around the person with autism to work to understand what that behavior is communicating without merely consigning it to a category of something to be gotten rid of. Jeremy states: “I have oftentimes been the victim of ignorance.” We must not be party to what Jeremy has suffered. We need to be humble and helpful, persistently curious and ever respectful. We cannot presume to know what we do not. We must take the time to get to know the hopes and dreams of people whom we do not yet understand.
I was also intrigued by the undercurrent discussion of relationships that runs through the book in sections on friendship, sex, love, and support staff, as they all revolve around the quality and character of relationships. How can we support, for the person and people around him, the development of more meaningful communication, relating, and problem-solving. To the many thoughts already included I would add that it is often very helpful to support the person and caregivers by carving out regular reflective time to think through how things are going – what is working, what isn’t, and what to do to try next to understand the situation better and try something different.
In all, this is a compelling, thoughtful, comprehensive and inspiring bible that belongs on the shelf of everyone who strives to help people with autism build a life in a complex world.
Joshua Feder MD, Director of Research of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders
By the end of the summer, most of us parents are happy to see summer end knowing our ASD children will have routine and a schedule back in their lives (and so will we). But we dread the stress related to the start of a new school year. There are ways to lessen the stress and help prepare both your child and the teacher for a new and hopefully successful new school year.
Autism College hopes to help this year by offering you a two hour free Q & A with Visiting Professor, Dr. Peter Faustino, school psychologist, moderated by Chantal Sicile-Kira. Both Dr. Faustino and Chantal have written on the topic and are looking forward to answering your questions and giving you tips to prepare your child, yourself, and the teacher for the start of a successful new school year! Whether your child is fully included or in a special day class there are ways to prepare and alleviate some of the stress of the transition from summer to school, especially when there are teachers new to your child or teenager.
Join Dr. Faustino and Chantal on Monday, August 22, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:00pm PST on the topic : Tips for Reducing the Back to School Stress for Children with Autism, Parents and Educators.
Dr. Peter Faustino has been working as a school psychologist for more than 12 years. He is currently the President of the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP). NYASP – the state affiliate of NASP (www.naspweb.org) – serves children, their families, and the school community by promoting psychological well-being, excellence in education, and sensitivity to diversity through best practices in school psychology. Dr. Faustino joined the Bedford Central School District in 2003 to work at the Fox Lane Middle School. Dr. Faustino also maintains a private practice with the Developmental Assessment and Intervention Center (DAIC) in Bedford Hills, NY. He presents frequently at national conferences, schools, and parent organizations.
To sign up for the webinar, please signup for our newsletter here. Already signed up for the newsletter? Click here.
In an earlier post, I discussed the need for teens with autism to have more choices, just like any other teen. So, how can we as parents and educators provide them more freedom, more space? Here are some tips:
Give them more opportunities to make choices, within parameters. For example, if a teenager has had a schedule to stick to after school, why not give him the choice of what order to do it in?
At school, provide more opportunities for making choices, perhaps in choosing the group activity, or more control over planning his schedule, and in how he spends his day.
Give him or her the choice of what the family will eat for dinner, (within limits) once or twice a week – maybe he can even go do the shopping and help prepare for the meal with a helper. responsibility, and that is a lesson all teens need to learn.
Instead of always planning activities or outing for your teen on the weekends, pick one day where your teen can choose on a regular basis what his afternoon will look like.
Perhaps it seems obvious, but contact your school if you have not been informed of your teen’s schedule or the name of the teacher(s), classroom(s), bell schedule, district and master schedule for the new school year. Sometimes, these are not known till the last minute and the school administrators are dealing with many issues – budget cuts, union and staffing concerns, etc. But, by asking politely and reminding them that you need to ‘prime’ your teen about where he needs to be, who he will see, what the schedule is for the first day of school, you can reasonably hope to get an answer.
Review your teen’s IEP document to refresh your memory about what the goals are. If you have any questions as to how the IEP will be implemented, get a list going to communicate your questions to the person responsible.
If your teen is to receive aide support as stipulated by the IEP, it would be a good idea to contact the administrator to insure that an aide has been assigned. If specific training has been specified in the IEP, ask if the aide has been trained or when the training will take place.
If your teen receives related services at school such as occupational therapy and/ or speech therapy, make sure you are aware of when and where he is receiving the services and that it is in line with the IEP. If the services are provided outside of the school day, contact the non-public agency providing the service to ensure an appropriate time is scheduled for your teen.
This is a good time to ensure any records regarding your son and his educational needs are in order. Filing everything (IEPs, assessments, correspondence) in one 3-ring binder in chronological order is most helpful as it provides easy access when you need to find a particular document.
If your child is fully included, or has a new special education or resource teacher, it is helpful to provide the teacher with a one-page positive overview about your teen, and ensure that the teacher is aware of the IEP goals and objectives. Your teen may wish to write his own note to the teacher.
Self –advocacy is a skill that should be developed in every teenager. When situations come up in regards to information that needs to be shared with the teacher and classmates, or situations arise that need to be resolved, think of ways your teen take part in that process, and bit by bit, to take more ownership of it, depending upon his/her ability level.
In my next column, some strategies to help general education teachers who have students on the spectrum included in their class will be shared.