1. DO HORMONAL CHANGES STILL OCCUR?
Autistic teenagers experience the same hormonal and bodily changes, growing interest in relationships and frustrations of regular adolescence as neurotypical teenagers do, however they may lack the ability to communicate such concerns. Factor in a difficulty relating to others on an emotional and social level and this makes such an experience even more difficult. The transition from childhood to adolescence is a tough period for all children and finding an efficient way for children to cope, understand and communicate such changes is something we at The Star Academy take pride in. The Star Academy, aims to reduce the difficulty of such a transition by developing effective coping mechanisms for the child to engage in when they want to manage or express the changes they are experiencing.
2. DEMANDS INCREASE!
Whether it be in the home environment or at school, demands on teenagers increase drastically. Managing a busy work load, having to prioritise work assignments, follow complex instructions and new self-care practices, can be overwhelming in any circumstances but experiencing this as an Autistic teenager is even more so. For example, one’s rigidity to routines or change and sensitivity to environmental stimuli like school bells or bright lights can be overwhelming, being a concrete, literal thinker may bring challenges in social settings, or difficulty acknowledging social cues can make such demands seem more difficult. Due to these increasing demands into adolescence, The Star Academy is proactive in assisting our learners with managing such demands, through the use of visual aids such as activity schedules to show the child what they have to do and how much time they have to complete it, as well as learning various adaptive, cognitive and executive function skills necessary for managing such demands.
3. PREPING FOR ADULTHOOD STARTS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD!
Every child learns skills that will be valuable for them in their adulthood and autistic children should not be any different.
The Star Academy advocates for early intervention in the form of an evidence-based form of treatment namely Applied Behaviour Analysis, in order to hit the ground running, teaching skill acquisition and behaviour modification techniques, attaining skills and techniques that will put an Autistic teen in good stead when they enter adolescence.
Autism and teenage years in South Africa bring with them the need for many safety and social skills. Our teenagers are faced with many safety concerns on a daily basis as are we all, and they need to be specifically equipped to navigate these situations.
4. IS EMPLOYMENT POSSIBLE?
Getting your first job is a major milestone of one’s adolescence, as such it is vital that Autistic teenagers are given the same opportunity to reach this milestone.
The Star Academy prides itself with facilitating such a milestone and increases the likelihood of such a milestone taking place. Through Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy, The Star Academy teaches various skills that one would need to enter and work in the business world as well as assist our learners in seeking employment opportunities from local South African businesses. Star Academy instructors facilitate various children in their jobs, with the end goal of the child becoming an independent employee. We are also known for helping our learners establish their own businesses and with their previously learnt skills (learnt through their one-on-one ABA sessions), are successful in making their businesses self-sufficient!
The Star Academy team can help navigate autism and teenage years in south Africa, bearing our specific economy in mind.
5. ANXIETY A RISK?
Anxiety is often a concern for many teenagers given the complexity of adolescences, however the risk for Autistic teenagers is even higher! This can be due to the increasing demands, complex social environments and growing awareness of interpersonal differences and difficulties.
Autistic children might encounter social or unfamiliar situations, which can be very overwhelming. Deficits in social skills and emotional understandings, result in Autistic teenagers often experiencing difficulties in interpreting what someone else is thinking or feeling or how someone might react in a specific situation. Consequently, these experiences increase a child’s anxiety and in turn their anxiety interferes with their social skills. Furthermore, Autistic children might have difficultly communicating their anxiety in an appropriate manner, as such they might engage in more problem behaviour.
The Star Academy aims to assist such an experience by teaching the child how to identify and express their emotions as well as teach them various coping strategies and techniques that the child can access when they feel they are about to become anxious and/or when they are feeling anxious.
6. INCREASE YOUR TEENS INDEPENDENCE!
Independence is a necessary rite of passage for teenagers and whilst it might be scary for typical parents to loosen the reins, it is even more daunting for parents of Autistic teenagers and this is where we can assist, making this possible and easier. The Star Academy helps to reduce some of this anxiety by teaching their learners a variety of adaptive skills making the transition into adolescence less daunting. From bathing themselves to brushing their teeth, from getting dressed to making their own breakfast, from making their own meals to shopping and using a credit card, from cleaning to gardening and from telephonic skills to pet care, to name a few. These adaptive skills are vital in increasing an Autistic teenager’s independence, confidence and self-esteem, characteristics that are often challenged in adolescence.
– Chad Edery