Aspiring to help adolescents manage Asperger’s Disorder
Teachers, school administrators, counselors and even parents often struggle when dealing with an adolescent with symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder. From social difficulties to eccentric behaviors, a person with Asperger’s needs special care.
Linden Oaks has responded to the call for help by creating Aspirations, a new intensive outpatient program for adolescents with Asperger’s Disorder who also struggle with anxiety and mood disorders.
Asperger’s Disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), often termed autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and unusual preoccupations or repetitive behaviors. Unlike Autistic Disorder, children with Asperger’s do not experience speech or cognitive delays. The condition appears to be more common among boys than girls.
“An individual with Asperger’s is often interested in gaining social experiences and developing relationships. However, the individual may lack the skill-set to do so effectively. This may present in a variety of ways from social anxiety to social awkwardness or difficulty finding common interests with peers,” explains Lauren Friedrich, Psy.D., a therapist with Linden Oaks’ Aspirations program.
“Due to the high functioning cognitive abilities of these patients, the emotional needs of these individuals may be overlooked when considering special services in school or other settings,” Friedrich says.
To help meet the needs of this underserved group, the Aspirations program offers a structured, caring and low-sensory environment in which professional psychologists and therapists use innovative therapeutic services to modify behaviors, improve social skills and provide strategies for managing anxiety and mood.
The program uses a unique blend of therapies to address specific treatment goals and coach families on modifying habits and issues at home. Group therapy sessions provide support and encouragement as well as mindfulness exercises; interpersonal and social skill building; friendship building strategies; acceptance skills; and mental health education.
Another unique feature is the program’s schedule. Adolescents attend morning classes at his or her regular school and then participates in afternoon outpatient therapy sessions at Linden Oaks, five days a week. Family sessions with parents are held in the afternoon prior to the start of the program.
“We are here to provide support to the individual and his or her family so that they may have the encouragement and build the skills they need to make a difference at home as well as effectively advocate needs at school. With effective treatment and specialized care, our patients are learning the skills they need to better manage the symptoms of this disorder,” says Lauren Harris, M.A., also a therapist in Aspirations.
To refer a patient to Aspirations, please call a Linden Oaks Resource and Referral counselor at (630) 305-5500. For more information, please call Lauren Friedrich at (630) 646-5415 or Lauren Harris (630) 646-5416.