Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Teenage Autism

​Elk River specializes in treating adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Treating Teenagers with Autism

​Challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

The Elk River Treatment Program has helped many adolescents with a diagnosis of autism. The symptoms of autism range from mild to severe which is why autism is now referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Elk River has successfully helped hundreds of adolescents who were admitted with a diagnosis of "high functioning" autism (they could read, write, and manage life skills without around-the-clock assistance.) At one time, this diagnosis was referred to as Asperger's. Elk River Treatment Program does not serve children who have a lower functioning and/or non-verbal ASD diagnosis.

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, a child who cannot communicate might demonstrate his or her frustration in a way that is misinterpreted as aggression. “We usually hear from parents of children with ASD when the child's frustration truly develops into aggression,” said Kathy DeMellier, Director of Admissions at Elk River.

All clients of Elk River learn early how to communication more effectively. The lost skill of letter writing is re-introduced and practiced daily at Elk River. Another skill that clients learn is how to interpret queues from non-verbal communication. Horses are very helpful therapeutic partners when individuals are learning non-verbal communication. Equine Assisted Learning is an excellent tool for hands-on experiential education lessons.

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. Experienced counselors supervise clients around-the-clock to maintain safety standards and secondly, to observe and correct negative or anti-social behaviors. Consistency and strict provide a safe, no judgement environment for adolescents as they practice new behaviors in a positive peer culture. The residential component allows them to sharpen their new communication tools before returning home.

What are the Symptoms of a Teenager with Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 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 different about their child if he or she is struggling with ASD by the time of his or her third birthday, and some children may exhibit symptoms as early as infancy. Unlike children with severe 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.