Update on ASD Teen Groups
This summer we have four groups for teens -- two on Monday (4pm to 530pm and 530pm to 630pm), one on Thursday (4pm to 530pm) and one on Saturday (10am to 12pm). Although there is variation in each group, as groups always take on the unique personality of its members, there is a common purpose: to raise self-awareness.
How do we (at GroupWorks West) go about raising self-awareness? Well, we go right through the front door -- as it were. We talk openly and honestly about each member's strengths and deficits and then we create challenges that address deficits. For example, if a member has a pattern of taking over conversations and giving directions to peers, we directly address the emotional consequences associated with these behaviors.
We talk about how these communication patterns affect friends and family on an emotional level (people feel ignored and controlled) and then we set a clear goal: focus on the "how" of communication, not the "what" of communication. During group we give continuous emotional feedback to each member whenever he falls into his "autistic" pattern of communication.
We ask the teen to work on speaking from the heart and not from the head -- to try to communicate feelings and beliefs instead of facts and rules.
Teens with ASD need consistent and direct emotional feedback in order to raise their level of self-awareness -- lectures and directions simply don't do the job. Sadly most adults who work with teens with ASD assume they cannot become more self-aware -- hence they assume they can only memorize social rules.
Thankfully, this just ain't the case. Our groups prove, time and again,that feebdack creates new patterns of behavior and promotes greater social competence via greater self-awareness. We create a high level of personal accountability and group members "buy in" and work the program.
So, try not to lecture your teen -- and ratchet up the emotional feedback. It works! If you have questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.