Botvin Lifeskills Training Program
Innovative Teen Programs to Curb the Symptoms of Autism
The general rule is that treatment for autism must be delivered in the early stages of a child’s life. To be sure, early detection is critical and can mean the difference between mainstreaming a child or not as he or she gets ready to enter school.
Yet while early detection is essential, one should not think that nothing can be done in the later years of a child’s development. In fact, many innovative programs are being developed that have been incredibly effective in allowing teens with autism to flourish. This article will examine a few of the latest and most successful ones.
One program that is excellent for teens who need to develop social skills as well as job training capabilities is the Botvin Lifeskills Training Program. Generally used to curb substance abuse among teens, the program is also highly effective at developing a teen’s sense of self worth and personal responsibility. This program can be extremely effective in motivating teens with autism to succeed in school and allows them to adjust and even thrive in a workplace environment.
However, the above program is not specific to youth with special needs and is only effective with those who possess the highest levels of functionality. Other programs that are of greater value to special needs youth as a whole include a variety of software programs that facilitate learning, hands on programs that develop social skills, physical abilities and team work, as well as motivational programs that propel special teens to realize their full potential.
Sports and fitness programs for youth with autism abound. Special needs schools and social service agencies in most cities throughout the nation can provide lists of innovative therapeutic programs designed for special needs students. That said, one recent program started in Montague, New Jersey, is truly noteworthy and should be replicated in as many areas as possible.
Montague is home to Fountain House, a farming community maintained by adults with special needs. With the assistance of a grant from the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, Fountain House and the Boy Scouts of America embarked on a cooperative project in which teens with autism built a wildlife habitat trail on the farm’s property. In addition to receiving their Eagle Scout badges, participating teens learned a valuable lesson; that they are valuable and effective members of society. This program would serve as an ideal model for other therapeutic social and fitness programs in all cities and states.
In the field of education, one highly effective program for math instruction is ABA Math, a free software program that was designed by a parent to help his own child learn arthmatic. Available at abamath.sourceforge.net, the program is designed to allow the student to practice level appropriate math problems in a variety of different ways until the problems’ concepts are fully understood. It is based on the Applied Behavioral Analysis methods of UCLA’s Dr. O. Ivor Lovaas and is highly effective at increasing the mathematical abilities of teens who struggle greatly in this area. Another excellent resource for free educational software designed specifically for kids with autism is frasermckaysoftware.co.uk.
With regard to social interaction programs, an organization called The Friendship Circle is taking the lead in promoting big brother/big sister type programs in which mainstream teens befriend children and fellow teens with autism. The program calls for home visitations, under the supervision and guidance of the parents or caregivers of special needs participants.
The program encourages volunteerism, which is shown to increase a teen’s civic awareness, sense of responsibility, public speaking abilities and academic performance, while greatly curbing his/her chances of falling into the pitfalls of crime, truancy or substance abuse. The program is also unique in its ability to develop lasting friendships between special needs teens and their mainstream peers. While the goal of the majority of treatment/therapeutic programs for teens with autism must be mainstreaming (and many of the Friendship Circle’s activities assist in this area as well; not the least of which are its sports and creative programs), mentoring and friendship building is essential for teens with more severe cases of autism.
These are a few of the most innovative programs that are currently available for teens with autism. And while early detection is key and much emphasis needs to be placed on treatment during the early years, the need for teen programs cannot be overstated. It is my two-pronged goal in featuring the best of these programs, that a) parents of special needs teenagers be made aware of their existence and b) these and other such programs be replicated wherever possible.
Yomin Postelnik is a noted conservative writer and political strategist for many conservative federal and state campaigns as well as the author of a Financial Literacy program for at-risk teens.