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Training for Teens : 

Training for Teens A Guide for Promoting a successful summer camp experience for a child with autism

First…What Is Autism? : 

First…What Is Autism? Here’s the technical definition… Children with ASD demonstrate deficits in 1) social interaction, 2) verbal and nonverbal communication, and 3) repetitive behaviors or interests. In addition, they will often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each of these symptoms runs the gamut from mild to severe. They will present in each individual child differently. For instance, a child may have little trouble learning to read but exhibit extremely poor social interaction. Each child will display communication, social, and behavioral patterns that are individual but fit into the overall diagnosis of ASD.

Did that Answer The Question? : 

Did that Answer The Question? If not, that’s because…. There is no one single way to define autism, PDD-NOS or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). The characteristics exhibited by a child or teen with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as varied as the characteristics of any other child or teen.

So How Do We Help? : 

So How Do We Help? Children and teens with an ASD will each have individual strengths and challenges. One of the keys to ‘helping’ these individuals will lie in developing a solid understanding of the strengths and challenges of the individual child/teen. Once we have this understanding, we can proceed to formulating a plan with the child that will truly serve that child’s individual needs.

Communication is Critical! : 

Communication is Critical! Talk to the child! You will get lots of good information from others in the child’s life (definitely parents, perhaps teachers and others involved with the child). Taking time to talk to and getting to know the child will give you information necessary to be an effective partner in this collaboration you are undertaking.

What To Talk About… : 

What To Talk About… What are the child’s passions? - How does s/he spend free time? - What activities is s/he good at? - What is his/her favorite subject in school? - What does s/he want to be when they grow up? If these look like familiar questions, it’s because these are the things you would talk to ‘typical’ children about under similar circumstances, right?????

What Else To Talk About… : 

What Else To Talk About… What are the child’s dislikes? Can the child identify, either directly or indirectly, situations and/or locations that cause anxiety? For children on the autism spectrum, these will be important things for you to know (for example, a child with a fear of water will not respond well to an announcement at camp that it is time for swimming lessons!)

The Importance of Teaching Self-Advocacy : 

The Importance of Teaching Self-Advocacy Most children with ASD will need to be taught EXACTLY the steps to take to ask for help when they need it. It is this lack of fluency in knowing how to appropriately ask for help that can lead to situations where the child with ASD will end up in an undesirable situation. Children with ASD, more often than not, do NOT know instinctively how to self-advocate effectively.

So… : 

So… If we can teach these children in our role as ‘mentor’ how to better advocate for themselves, we can gradually lead them to a point where they will be able to function in ‘typical’ environments – like summer camp – without intensive 1:1 assistance.

But Remember! : 

But Remember! We are not necessarily teaching ‘independence’ in the traditional sense of the word. We are hopefully teaching these children how to successfully be INTERDEPENDENT!!

Steps To An Effective Partnership : 

Steps To An Effective Partnership Formulating the Plan Self-Assurance 101 Dynamic Duo I’ll Be There For You! Flying Solo (almost) Independent Self-Advocacy *Taken from K. Sibley’s model: “Helping Me Help Myself: Teaching and Learning Self-Advocacy”

Formulating the Plan : 

Formulating the Plan This first step will be used to identify the area (or areas) where the child with ASD will need assistance and/or accommodations in order to have a successful summer camp experience. In this first step, you, the volunteer, will model for the child the act of advocating for those needs.

For Example… : 

For Example… If the child tends to struggle during interactions with ‘typical’ peers, this can lead to behavioral difficulties and negative consequences for our child with ASD – even if the child with ASD was not the cause of the problem in the first place. -So if Mark and Stan (‘typical’ children) are quietly teasing/bullying Joe (child with ASD), and Joe does not know how to get them to stop, there is a good chance that he will eventually react in an inappropriate manner (verbally and/or physically).

Slide 14: 

The focus of the problem then becomes Joe’s behavior, rather than the behavior of Mark and Stan, because Joe is the one whose behavior is visibly inappropriate to others. Our kids with ASD need to be taught what steps to take to get their needs met before they reach the point of ‘inappropriate’ behavior!

Formulating the New Plan! : 

Formulating the New Plan! After collaborating with your child with ASD to identify the areas of potential difficulty, you, the mentor, will take the lead in coming up with a list of possible solutions to the problem(s). Once the list has been developed, you, the mentor, will demonstrate to the child how to act out the most appropriate solution(s) to the problem.

Step 1, Continued… : 

Step 1, Continued… In the case of Joe, he and his mentor would together develop a list of ways Joe can bring the teasing/bullying to the attention of his counselor(s) before he reaches the point of no-return and has a meltdown which only serves to get him into trouble. From this list, Joe and his mentor would pick one or more solutions which seem viable – for example, Joe may have suggested asking to have the offenders removed from camp, which may not be the best solution, while the mentor may have suggested a private meeting with the lead counselor, a more effective approach.

Step 1, Continued… : 

Step 1, Continued… Joe and his mentor would then decide how exactly they want to present the problem to the lead counselor – what tone they will take, what words will be used, what words they will need to avoid using in the conversation. Again, in this first step, the mentor (you!) is taking the lead and demonstrating to the child the appropriate steps to take – the child is learning during this step.

Step 1, Continued… : 

Step 1, Continued… At the meeting with the counselor, the mentor will continue the teaching/modeling for Joe by ‘stating their case’ in the manner in which the two have pre-determined. From this continued modeling, Joe will have the opportunity to observe the advocacy process at work without having the stress of needing to actively participate at this point.

Step 1, Continued… : 

Step 1, Continued… In the best-case scenario from this example, the counselor will have a clearer picture of what has been happening ‘behind-the-scenes’ and will be open to solutions offered by Joe’s mentor – and possibly even have a few viable solutions to offer as well. Note – in this particular example, we take the problem of bullying, which is something that NO child should be left to deal with on his/her own – no competent adult working with children should be purporting the view that ‘kids will be kids' or that ‘they need to work it out themselves’ – this is not a personality conflict we’re talking about here!

Self-Assurance 101 : 

Self-Assurance 101 In Step Two, our child with ASD will begin to ‘get their feet wet’ in the process of becoming an effective self-advocate. In order for this process to ultimately succeed, the child will need to be confident in their own abilities. As we move towards the child getting ready to take the lead in the advocacy process, the mentor will now begin giving the child many opportunities to practice, practice, practice!

Step 2, continued… : 

Step 2, continued… Choosing another area which is causing difficulty for the child, the mentor and child will repeat the process outlined in Step 1, only this time the process will include ample time for the child to rehearse what will be said during the actual self-advocacy process. In this step, information the mentor has gathered about the child’s areas of interest can prove valuable – it will be important to have ideas on-hand which will aid in the boosting of the child’s self-confidence during the rehearsal period.

Step 2, Continued… : 

Step 2, Continued… For example – In the case of Joe, perhaps he also does better in situations where he has a visual schedule to reference, but the camp does not use visual schedules. Joe and his mentor would work through the process outlined in Step 1, with the addition of Joe practicing the role of self-advocate with the support of his mentor. This may be stressful for Joe at times, and having preferred activities/topics of conversation to fall back on with his mentor has the potential to provide the needed ‘tension-breaker.’

Step 2, Continued… : 

Step 2, Continued… This step will also provide more opportunities for bonding between the mentor and child as the child now begins to become a more active participant in the advocacy process.

The Dynamic Duo! : 

The Dynamic Duo! At Step 3, the child and mentor move into a more equal partnership. As the child’s confidence level develops through the phases of Step 2, he/she is now able to demonstrate a more proactive role in the advocacy process. Practicing for self-advocacy at this step will take on a role-playing feature, where the child will continue to practice; now the practice will include the mentor moving gradually back into more of a ‘helper’ mode – role-playing with the child and offering tips and suggestions only when needed.

Step 3, Continued… : 

Step 3, Continued… In Step 3, the mentor will continue taking steps to encourage the development of self-esteem in the child, offering much praise for success and being careful to carefully word any criticisms.

I’ll Be There For You! : 

I’ll Be There For You! Step 4 is all about moral support for the child. At this step, the child will be taking much of the self-advocacy process on independently, but he/she is not yet ready for full independence (and remember, we’re working towards more effective interdependence, anyway!)

Step 4, Continued… : 

Step 4, Continued… This moral support can be physical and/or emotional… For example – if our child Joe is planning on talking to his swimming instructor at camp about his difficulty with getting his face wet in the pool, and he has reached this step, he may just need you, his mentor, to be standing nearby with an encouraging ‘thumbs-up’!

Step 4, Continued… : 

Step 4, Continued… This may not seem like much, but it is extremely important not to overlook or rush through this phase. The child has assumed most of the responsibility at this point, but will still need guidance and direction at times and may not realize it.

Flying Solo (almost) : 

Flying Solo (almost) At Step 5, the child is ready to take the lead in the advocacy process entirely. The mentor will remain a part of the process at the level determined by the child. This could be the longest step in the process for the child leading to ‘independent’ self-advocacy, and that’s ok!

Step 5, Continued… : 

Step 5, Continued… Ultimately, we are looking to teach the child through this process how to: Recognize situations where they need to advocate for themselves And… How to do just that! So, it’s ok if they remain at Step 5 longer than the other steps. Over the course of a summer, this would not be uncommon.

Independent Self-Advocacy : 

Independent Self-Advocacy In the final step of the process, the child with ASD would be expected to complete the steps to self-advocacy entirely on his/her own. While this is certainly a goal worth striving for, especially as the child grows older and will no longer have as many adults ‘looking out’ for them, it is not necessarily one that is going to be reached across-the-board for every situation over the course of a summer camp experience. Ultimately, the child, like other children without ASD, will rely on adults from time-to-time, this is a typical part of the development of ALL children.

Independent Self-Advocacy : 

Independent Self-Advocacy What we hope to accomplish here is to give these children a wider variety of options, comparable to their peers who are typically-developing, when it comes to the choices they have during the summer months. By law, summer camps cannot discriminate against these children, and are required to accept them no matter what their disability may be.

Independent Self-Advocacy : 

Independent Self-Advocacy However, no law is going to help a child get the most out of their time at summer camp. The best way to offer our children with ASD a chance at a successful summer camp experience is to take the time to give them the tools to teach others how to help them help themselves. Did that make more sense than the definition of Autism we looked at way back on Slide #2??

For More Information: : 

For More Information: AS (Autism Spectrum) Harmony is made up of parents and professionals who are raising and educating children with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism, PDD-NOS, Asperger's Syndrome). In some cases, we ourselves also share these diagnoses with our children. Our mission is to provide a forum for open and effective collaboration between individuals with our goal being to provide a higher level of compassion and understanding for the uniqueness of persons young and old living with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We are dedicated to bringing parents, educators, friends and loved ones together to share information, support and ideas as we work towards a better present and future for our children living on the Autism Spectrum Visit our website @ Join the discussion! Visit to be added to our online discussion and information listserv.

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