New Linden Oaks pgm. for teens with Asperger's.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
Program offers life lessons for teens with Asperger’s
October 22, 2012
Will I fit in with the other kids? Many teens worry about this at some point — especially as they make the transition from grade to middle school, or from middle school to high school. There also may be anxiety about tougher school work at the new level. But for adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome, the prospect of these school adjustments can be overwhelming.
Asperger’s is different than other disorders on the autism spectrum in that language development and intellectual abilities are typically not affected. But AS does have certain characteristics in common with autism, such as lack of empathy, difficulty in relating to others and repetitive behaviors.
One of the things that can set people with AS apart is their conversational style. They may speak in a monotone, or loudly, or limit their conversation to highly narrow interests.
“For teens with Asperger’s, the school year raises fears and frustration about new routines and finding their place in the new setting,” says Lauren Friedrich, a Linden Oaks at Edward clinical therapist. “On top of that, many suffer from anxiety and depression.”
Linden Oaks recently launched Aspirations, an intensive outpatient program for adolescents who struggle with Asperger’s, along with anxiety or a mood disorder.
“Our focus is on helping them better manage their emotions and become able to function more smoothly in school and other settings,” Friedrich says.
The students attend the program from 1to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Linden Oaks Outpatient Center, 1335 N. Mill St., Naperville. The schedule allows the kids to stay integrated with their regular schools, which they attend in the mornings.
“To make that happen, we talk frequently with the counseling or social work staff at the teen’s school,” says Lauren Harris, M.A., a therapist with the Aspirations program. “These updates help them support the student both during and after the program.”
The teens meet in small groups to learn mindfulness and other ways to better tolerate distress.
“We help them focus on what they value,” Harris says. “Such as joining math club, and have them ask themselves, ‘Won’t it be worth it to go after what I want, even if I go through some discomfort to do it?’”
They also practice interpersonal and assertiveness skills.
“We discuss how to ask for what you want in an assertive, non-aggressive way, as well as how to set personal boundaries and say no,” Harris says.
The last hour of each day is saved for individual and family therapy, with Fridays being multi-family day. Parents have a chance to talk about what’s working or not working at home. And the teens go home with exercises to guide them in practicing their new skills at school and elsewhere.
“The length of time a teen is in Aspirations can vary, but it’s usually about three to four weeks,” Friedrich says. “Follow-up with individual therapists is recommended. Thanks to the program’s intensive focus on both emotional and social issues, and the families’ involvement, we see significant results in a relatively short period.”
To find out about a free assessment, call the Linden Oaks Help Line at 630-305-5500.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services