While there are many services for young children diagnosed with autism, programs dwindle as they become adolescents. Services for teenagers with autism are necessary for a variety of reasons, such as developing social skills, transitioning into adulthood, and learning a vocation. While the services for teenagers with autism seem scarce, some programs are available.
Types of Services for Teenagers with Autism
Services for teenagers with autism help teens reach goals outlined in their treatment plans:
- IEP - An Individualized Education Program (IEP) addresses the needs of a student, from elementary through high school.
- Transition Plan - The transition plan includes evaluations and planning for employment in adulthood. Planning can begin in high school but it may begin earlier in some cases.
- Counseling - Teens can have individual counseling in school or with help from their case managers. Counseling can focus on specific areas, including behavior, socialization, communication, and organizational skills.
- Vocational - Teens can receive vocational training so they can continue their education or enter the workforce after high school.
- Therapy - A teen may continue to have therapy, including occupational and speech therapy.
- Habilitation - Teens with low functioning autism can receive habilitation services that focus on self help skills through local mental health/mental retardation (MHMR) service organizations.
- Support groups - The Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association has a monthly support group for people ages 13 to 19 years.
A Sampling of Resources for Teens with Autism
Autism Support Network
The Autism Support Network offers teenagers and their parents a place to with many resources. Some of the resources available on the Autism Support Network include:
- Chat rooms - Teenagers can talk with other teens that have autism so they do not feel they are dealing with their diagnosis on their own. Parents can connect with others to set up meetings or talk about problems and issues.
- Events - The ASN lists and sponsors a variety of events for families and children affected by autism. Some examples of previous events include the American Medical Autism Board Conference and a conference on stem cell research and autism.
- Resources by state - You simply enter your state of residence and a list of services in your state will become available to you.
Easter Seals has programs across the country for teenagers with autism and other developmental disabilities. The organization believes teenagers with autism do best with intensive services that involve the whole family to help with transitions from home to school and vice versa. Easter Seals offers the following programs:
- Weekend respite care for parents
- Speech and hearing therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Evening activities and outings to help teenagers with making friends
- Training for parents
- Camping and recreation programs
- School to work programs to help assist with real world transitions
- Services for when teenagers turn 21 and older
The Autism Society offers parents and teenagers a variety of resources to help deal with an ASD diagnosis. You can sign up for a free e-newsletter or join as a member and have access to the following:
- Conferences and sponsored events
- Links to local Autism Society chapters
- Autism Society Action Alerts, which let you know about legislation regarding ASD
- Free online courses
You can find resources in your area online. Autism Link has a searchable database that you can use to find local services for teenagers with autism.
Parental Help for Teens with Autism
- Work with your teenager's guidance counselor and teachers to establish educational goals and behavioral intervention plans.
- Advocate for a support group in your teenager's school or town to help her realize she is not alone in her experience.
- Sign up for the Autism Support Network, a free online community that offers a variety of resources and support for autistic teenagers and their families.
- Call your local social services or MHMR agency for a referral to a place that provides services to teenagers with autism. There is likely to be at least one or two people with some expertise who can come into your home and work with your teenager, if necessary.
A treatment team includes those who are closest to the teen, including friends and family. Advocacy for your child begins with autism awareness. As more is learned about this condition, more help should become available. For now, you may need to take the reins to get services for your teenager.