Treating Teenagers with Autism
Challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
The Elk River Treatment Program has helped many adolescents with the diagnosis or traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of the challenges faced by an individual with ASD is the inability to communicate effectively. Sometimes frustration follows a failed attempt at communicating. Eventually, an Autistic child who cannot communicate might demonstrate frustration in a way that is misinterpreted as aggression. “We usually hear from parents of ASD children when frustration truly develops into aggression,” said Kathy DeMellier, Director of Admissions at Elk River.
One of the first skills any new resident (Autistic or not) learns at Elk River is to communicate through letter writing – a lost art that is practiced daily at Elk River. Another skill that residents are taught is how to recognize non-verbal communication. This skill is introduced early in the program and re-enforced later through Equine Assisted Learning. Horses are an excellent source for hands-on experiential education lessons. Elk River's Equine Program is led by an experienced EAGALA Certified Instructor.
Creating Consistency and Boundaries
Unlike the severe withdrawal from the rest of the world that is characteristic of autism, children with ASD are often isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. In fact, they may approach other people, but make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior, or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest. Residents at Elk River are supervised 24/7 so experienced counselors can observe and correct negative or anti-social behaviors on a consistent basis. Consistency and strict boundaries help residents practice their new behaviors in a positive peer culture and sharpen new tools before returning home.
What are the Symptoms of a Teenager with Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome, is a developmental disorder that is characterized by:
- Limited interests or an unusual preoccupation with a particular subject to the exclusion of other activities
- Repetitive routines or rituals
- Peculiarities in speech and language, such as speaking in an overly formal manner or in a monotone, or taking figures of speech literally
- Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers
- Problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or inappropriate facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze
- Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
Parents usually sense there is something unusual about a child with ASD by the time of his or her third birthday, and some children may exhibit symptoms as early as infancy. Unlike children with autism, children with ASD retain their early language skills. Motor development delays – crawling or walking late, clumsiness – are sometimes the first indicator of the disorder.