Outpatient treatment doesn’t always provide adequate support for teens with Aspergers. While your home may be a supportive environment, school systems are often prepared to help teenagers with Asperger’s thrive, whether it is due to the school climate or their peer group. Your teenager may be successful academically, but struggle with social interactions, which can take a blow to their self-esteem and push them out of their comfort zone in a traditional school environment. When outpatient or individual treatment is not enough to help your teenager identify their strengths and persevere, you may consider looking for alternative treatment options.
Ways to Help Teens with Aspergers:
- Create safe and nurturing environments. Many teens with Aspergers struggle with sensory sensitivities, including to loud sounds, bright lights, and large crowds, that make them feel easily overwhelmed in many environments. They may either struggle to understand that other people do not experience these inputs to the same extent or feel misunderstood if they can’t identify why they’re overwhelmed and express it to others. Being aware of these sensitivities and trying to limit distractions in the environment or offering headphones or stim toys to keep them regulated helps create a sense of safety in their environment.
- Focus on their strengths. Teens with Asperger’s are really booksmart and dedicated about their goals. They may have specific interests that they are very knowledgeable and passionate about that help them excel in whatever field they choose. Encouraging them to embrace their strengths rather than focusing on their limitations empowers them to own their abilities and use them to their advantage.
- Encourage socializing in small, structured groups. One of the biggest challenges they face is social isolation and feeling socially inadequate. They may feel like their personal interests or their need for additional guidance and support contributes to an inability to “just be a teen.” While big groups may feel overwhelming, joining extracurricular activities or groups based on their interests or past experiences may help them find like-minded people they feel more comfortable around. A myth surrounding Aspergers is that they are incapable of forming positive social relationships. They may struggle with some social groups, but they are very empathetic and have a strong desire to connect. They just have trouble knowing where they fit in based on past rejection and low self esteem. Positive socializing helps them learn to take the perspectives of others and build relational skills.
- Establish easy routines to follow. Teens with Asperger’s love instructions and predictability. Creating routines helps structure their days and helps them develop positive habits. Routines are less rigid than keeping strict schedules, but collaborating on to-do lists helps them to gain control over the unknown and shapes their expectations.
- Be direct. The abstract is where things get fuzzy for them. You don’t have to simplify information for them, but it may help to break it down. Be prepared to answer questions they may have in any conversation. Despite struggling with understanding some social norms, they are very rule-oriented and think best concretely. It is possible to set clear expectations and explain potential natural consequences of certain actions without them feeling overcontrolled.
- Find ways to individualize their treatment. While individual therapy focuses on their personal needs, it doesn’t extend to accommodations once they leave the office. Recognize that there are some areas where they might need to be challenged and some where they need more support. Adapting treatment plans and school curriculum provides opportunities for success, to foster a more positive self-concept, and to foster an internalized investment in performance and progress. While it is important to include them in group activities so that they do not feel like they’re being treated differently, it is possible to make different suggestions depending on what would support them best.
- Go with their flow. Let them take initiative in making decisions about their routines and their personal goals. Many traditional forms of treatment for teens on the spectrum perpetuate their socio-emotional immaturity, but allowing them to take on responsibility and gain independence helps them grow into successful adults. Make realistic goals that are aligned with their personal values, not your own hopes.
How Seven Stars Can Help
Discover Seven Stars is a residential treatment program for teens ages 13-17 with Aspergers and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The program provides acute care stabilization, residential treatment, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, skill building, and positive psychology.
Our professionals understand the intersection and overlap between autism and depression and have developed individualized strategies to help teens learn skills to combat symptoms of depression. Our goal is to help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and personal management skills.
Contact us at 844-601-1167 for more information. We can help your family today!