While in a residential treatment center, we believe it is important to offer experiential activities that help teens on the autism spectrum practice the skills they learn in individual and group therapy. For some teens, they benefit more from experiential learning than psychoeducation as it helps them understand these skills in context. Team building activities, like playing board games, participating in team sports, doing icebreakers, or problem-solving activities, help teens with autism build social skills.
Positive Social Interactions
At Seven Stars, students have a myriad of opportunities to create and rebuild social skills. From the beginning, your child will be placed in a residential, milieu environment with teachers, mentors and peers. Then, through adventure programming, students will learn to trust and depend on other peers in order to successfully complete each obstacle.
For teens on the autism spectrum, this is one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of our program. When they first come to Seven Stars, they are often socially awkward and struggle to open up to others. While they may desire deeper connections, the ability to read, understand, reach out to and interact successfully with others may not come easily or they may find many social situations feel overstimulating.
Outdoor recreation, board games, and other social activities provide structure for positive social interactions. Many teens on the spectrum struggle with experiencing the same degree of connection during group therapy or open-ended conversations and benefit from bonding over shared activities.
Opportunities for Collaborative Problem Solving
Seven Stars uses team building activities as opportunities for hands-on learning. When faced with a challenge on their own, teens often focus on one element of the problem and have a harder time seeing the bigger picture. In trying to accomplish an objective, they might try the same thing over and over again, as they struggle with rigid thinking, and get frustrated with getting the same results. Working together with others allows students to bounce ideas off of each other and make decisions as a group. They are more willing to try new things and are more likely to reach their goals.
Take, for example, on a ropes course – alone one cannot walk across a loose rope. A team is needed for stability, critical thinking, problem solving and cooperation, in order to reach the end of the rope. By the end of a course, children begin to demonstrate communication, trust, leadership, and confidence, which are all essential social skills.
Team Work Builds Social Support
While some teens on the spectrum may struggle to pick up on their peers’ emotions during processing groups, they may be more likely to observe behaviors or choices their peers are struggling with during group activities. As they notice choices that aren’t working in a team-building exercise, they are better able to provide feedback and support. Participating in group activities can help teens understand the underlying social dynamics or struggles with executive functioning skills that play out during these activities. For example, they may find it easier to ask someone “why do you keep buying expensive properties in Monopoly every time you land on them when we can all see how much money you have?” Staff members may then lead group counseling about impulsivity or planning ahead to help peers build empathy and ask the group to offer advice.
Recreation outings are also a great way for teens to provide mutual support for each other, as they often push them out of their comfort zone. When hiking, they subconsciously learn how to pace themselves with the group and when rock climbing one at a time, the audience offers affirmations and support to individuals who feel overwhelmed with anxiety and self-doubt. Through these activities, teens on the spectrum develop a greater understanding of how a support system can help them meet their goals and practice social skills to help them develop these relationships.
Seven Stars Can Help
Seven Stars RTC is a residential treatment center for teens ages 13-17 struggling with Autism-related issues. The program provides acute care stabilization, residential treatment, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, skill-building, and positive psychology. These various programs and therapies help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and personal management. Seven Stars provides students with individualized access to the resources they need to transition to the real-world practicing healthier habits and self-control.
Contact us at 844-601-1167 for more information about social skills for teens on the spectrum.
Since 2003, Dr. Gordon Day has passionately helped young people with a wide range of family, emotional, social, neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems. Gordon’s mission has been to help people find their strengths and their own passion for living a full and rewarding life. He is particularly sensitive to the pressures, frustrations and disappointments that adolescents face that can sometimes cause them and their loved ones to want to withdraw and throw their hands up in despair.
Dr. Day knows that you really have to understand where a student is coming from and understand their patterns of strengths and needs. When we truly know an individual and their struggles, only then can we truly help.
Dr. Day has pioneered the use of outdoor therapy activities and outdoor living as a dynamic and effective therapeutic tool for learning, confidence building and skill building. His programs provide effective, supportive and encouraging environments that help students find their strengths and power.