Winter break camps: Fun. Social skills. Field trips. Hot chocolate.

ddAn ongoing tradition, winter break camp is a fun opportunity to connect with friends while pursuing games, activities and excursions. Our master’s level counselors make sure that winter break is a place for students to recharge while building social skills and confidence.

Mornings: Students select from their favorite activities:

  • Outdoor games and the Challenge Course

  • Board games, Magic the Gathering or D&D

  • Legos and K’nex

  • Comedy Improv, Art and Movement

bowlingAfternoon field trips to the movies, Kenmore bowling lanes and the Seattle Pinball Museum – for no additional fee! (Field trips are optional if child prefers not to go)

Sign up now on our website!

Ages: Explorers (ages 8-10), Navigators (ages 10-12), Teen Crew (ages 13-15) and Delphi (ages 15-19). Siblings are welcome!

Location: Ryther @ 2400 NE 95th St, Seattle, WA 98115

Dates: December 19, 20, 21 and December 28, 29, 30

Time: 9:30am to 3:30pm each day

 Fee: $100 per day with a two-day minimum enrollment

105-Aspiring-Candids-Web (1)Snacks will be provided. Students bring lunch from home. Personal electronic gaming devices are not appropriate.

Participants: We welcome students ages 8 and up who benefit from a small group environment. Some are shy, some are quirky, and some are twice exceptional. Some of our campers have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, learning disabilities or similar traits.

How to Support a “Scattered” Child

8081866129_45189a1250_z“How can my child be so smart, yet fail every subject?” This is a common question from parents of bright children. The answer: your child is smart, but scattered. Peg Dawson, international author and presenter on executive functioning, described the impact of executive functioning in her presentation to special education staff in the Federal Way Public Schools.

Executive functions are brain-based skills that help us to be successful in monitoring and achieving goals. They include response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, flexibility, sustained attention, task initiation, planning/prioritization, organization, time-management, goal-oriented persistence, and metacognition. Executive functioning deficits are common in children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and in others who are neurodivese.

The impacts can have huge effects on their behaviors at school and home.

Common ASD deficits

  • Emotional reactions inconsistent with the incident

  • Difficulty being flexible when something changes

  • Struggling with sustaining attention in non-preferred situations

  • Impacts on prioritization, often seen in a child’s written expression

  • Difficulties creating and maintaining organization systems

  • Inability to self-reflect and change behavior based on these reflections

hyperactivityCommon ADHD deficits

  • Impulsive behavior, especially when the reward is immediate

  • Struggling to remember several steps to a task and implementing those steps effectively

  • Difficulty attending when the situation is not stimulating

  • Procrastinating on homework or chores

  • Struggling to plan out steps of a project

  • Inaccurately estimating how long something will take

  • Inability to persist towards a goal

How to Help

It’s our job as adults to help children develop these skills and provide opportunities for them to practice. For children with executive functioning deficits, these skills may not be learned from their surroundings; they need to be explicitly taught. Until they are developed enough to practice, adults will need to be surrogates for our kid’s executive skills.

Here are some ideas for facilitating the development of these skills:

  • Provide alternatives to highly stimulating environments. It may be hard for the child to effectively use executive skills when overstimulated.

  • Give close-ended tasks with explicit steps.

  • Shorten tasks or provide breaks

  • Make a checklist for your child first and show him how to use it; then, help your child to make his own checklist.

  • Give 3:1 positives to correctives feedback, with the positives specific to executive functioning (i.e. “Nice job leaving that cookie on the counter, I know that is not easy to do sometimes”; “You did great adjusting to our change of plans”, “I like how you made a goal and then planned out the steps to achieve it”

  • Ask your child two simple questions: “What do you have to do? When are you going to do it?” This helps facilitate the process of goal setting, planning, time management, and task initiation. Then, hold them accountable to their plan.

Want more information about how to help support your child’s executive functioning skills? Consider one of Aspiring Youth’s social skills groups, or red Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, which is an excellent book that helps explain executive skills and how to intervene.

057-aspiring-headshots-webBreea. M. Rosas, Ed.S. graduated from Central Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2013. Her undergraduate major was Psychology, with a minor in Family Studies. She completed her Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology from CWU in 2016. She is currently a school psychologist for Federal Way Public Schools. Breea has worked with Aspiring Youth as a program coordinator/facilitator for summer camps and served on the curriculum development team. Additionally, Breea has experience working with adults of varying abilities, including autism spectrum disorder, as well youth in the school setting.

Through our eyes: What it’s like

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that I only speak on behalf of myself and no one else on the autism spectrum. My experiences with Asperger’s syndrome are entirely my own, so your child or someone you know who is also on th spectrum may have some differences, whether it be with social interaction or sensory-motor skills. In fact, people will not always have the same experiences with any mental or developmental disorders — it’s entirely dependent on the individual.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I have to admit that it’s a little difficult to imagine the life of a non-autistic person. I can’t picture myself not being very sensitive to heat and cold or not being socially awkward. Asperger’s syndrome has been a part of my life since I was born.

I guess if I had to say something, though, it’s sort of like being a foreigner from a different country and having to learn the language and customs. Things feel similar to your own country, but learning to adjust to the differences is difficult. But once you’ve mastered that, it doesn’t erase the fact that you’re a foreigner. No matter what, you’ll always stand out in some way.

Now, that isn’t to say being on the spectrum is horrible. On the contrary, I find it annoying when people pity me for being different or because I “don’t understand”. It’s insulting, not just to me, but to others on the spectrum as well, regardless of what the intent was. Just because we might not pick up on social cues or have a vastly different outlook on life than most people, it doesn’t mean that we’re unable to learn.

But I digress.

Asperger’s has had its perks growing up. For instance, as I have a passion for writing (especially creative writing), I always did really well in English class, especially when it came to essays and vocabulary tests. I also have very sensitive hearing, so if someone needs help but no one can hear them, I can hear them and help them to the best of my ability.

I think the point I’m trying get at is: autism isn’t that bad. I mean, yes, there are times where we struggle with socializing and sensory-motor skills. With a bit of support and understanding, we get by pretty well on our own. I believe that there are people out there who need to be reminded of that sometimes.

There are pros and cons to everything. Autism is no exception.

Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

Delphi Young Adults upcoming programs

Young adults want to succeed. We provide the guidance.

Delphi is for young adults, ages 18-28, who have Autism, ADHD or other similar traits.

Delphi Workspace

Delphi Workspace gives young adults the chance to connect with a peer community while pursuing real-world projects. Participants select project roles based on interest and work in small teams — also with informal time for socializing.

wire-bound-pad.jpgWe also offer independent study to work on a project, job search or college homework assignment.

Delphi Workspace participants can receive 1:1 adviser time, offering guidance on topics: job search/resume, health and wellness, money management and independent living skills.

  • When: Mondays and Wednesdays

  • Time: 12:00 – 3:00pm

  • Where: Ryther, 2400 NE 95th St, Seattle, 98115

  • No fee! Delphi Workspace is in pilot phase.

Come one or both days! No need to RSVP. For questions, contact

Delphi Social Clubs

Delphi Social Clubs are a great weekend hang-out for young adults, ages 21-28. Come to hang out and meet some awesome people. We will have some fun social card games, too. One of our coaches will be there to make sure everyone is having a great time. When you arrive, look for our “Delphi Young Adults” sign at the large table.

  • When: Saturday, Nov 5, 20 and Dec 10

  • Time: 4:00-6:00pm

  • Where: Pub at Montlake at 2307 24th Ave E in Seattle

  • No fee! Bring money for food and beverages. 

A big thanks to Pub at Montlake for their commitment to creating an inclusive environment.

No need to RSVP. For questions, contact


Through our eyes: School

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

Asperger’s (along with other autism spectrum disorders) sometimes come in a nice little package along with ADD/HD, depression and social anxiety. And, naturally, these did impact my school life. I always struggled with focusing and developing my social skills the most.

I went to a Montessori school until I was twelve, so kids had to do hands-on education where we would sometimes scatter across the classroom to work on one math assignment, one reading assignment, one writing assignment and one “other” or elective. We wrote all of our progress on a little worksheet of what we did. Because I was so easily distracted, whether it was because someone making noise or because I was spacing out too much, I didn’t always finish my work, so sometimes I would have to stay inside during recess to finish it.

I did have friends (or at least, acquaintances) that I got along with, but because I got nervous and didn’t know how to behave around my peers, I would try to spend time with people outside my age group. I guess it was because that they were more patient around me and understood some of what I was going through in life, so I could rely on them for advice.

I hopped around from service to service trying to “alleviate” the problem, but nothing ever really worked until my college years. I was in something called the Autism Spectrum Navigation Program (ASN for short) at Bellevue College. I’m not really sure how, but having a navigation assistant and taking classes on things like self-advocacy and job hunting for people on the spectrum really helped me be more responsible about school.

School life wasn’t horrible though. Since I have a fixation on creative writing, English class was always my best subject. I was always excited when my teachers in middle and high school announced an assignment involving creative writing or using a favorite movie or game as the subject of a compare and contrast essay. I also managed to avoid hanging out with kids my age that would have obviously been a bad influence on me.

Currently, I am on course to graduate in the fall of this year with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts (which is basically an umbrella term for video production, video games, animation, graphic design etc.). I am really glad that despite my challenges, I have been able to make it this far. I’m really looking forward to the future outside of school.

If your student is having trouble focusing in school or building lasting friendships, consider Aspiring Youth’s programs for children and teens such as our social skills groups or individual tutoring.

Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

School year programs now enrolling

105-Aspiring-Candids-Web (1)Enrollment opens for social skills groups

UPDATED: Enroll now through our website in Aspiring Youth’s Social Skills Groups!

Beginning in early October, our master’s level facilitators help participants identify and practice new skills, establish friendships and boost self-esteem.


New to Aspiring Youth social skills groups? Schedule your enrollment meeting.

  • AGE-BASED GROUPS: Topic-driven discussion ● Reinforcing games and activities ● Groups available for ages 8 to 19.

  • THEME-BASED GROUPS: Social skills curriculum through shared interest activities such as art, Dungeons & Dragons, rock climbing and more!

142-Aspiring-Candids-WebStart off strong this school year

In your home setting, individual coaching improves executive functioning, social skills, communication, conflict resolution, self-moderation of screen time and other similar areas.

Offered throughout the school year, we collaborate with therapists and psychologists to reinforce office sessions. 

Contact us to schedule a free initial assessment.


Aspiring Youth provides innovative social skills groups, summer camps, tutoring and other services for students ages 8 and up in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Bainbridge Island, Kirkland and the surrounding areas.

Some of our students are shy, some are quirky and some are twice exceptional. Many have a diagnosis of Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, learning disabilities or other similar traits.

Through our eyes: Discussing autism

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

I usually never tell people that I’m on the autism spectrum (specifically that I have Asperger’s Syndrome) unless it’s relevant to the situation.

For instance, when someone makes a passing comment about the spectrum and the conversation goes from there. Or when I’m at school or work and need to advocate for myself for certain reasons. And yet, it seems that almost every time that I tell people I’m on the spectrum, they seem surprised.

“You don’t act like you have Asperger’s,” they say.

“You seem pretty social for a person on the spectrum,” they say.

I’m not entirely sure if they’re just saying that to be nice or if they really mean it, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. But I also need to remind myself that some people don’t understand the autism spectrum and that getting annoyed isn’t going to help.

But the fact remains: yes, I was diagnosed with it. Since I was eleven years old.

I am a firm believer that autism (and any other mental disorder, for that matter) doesn’t affect each person the same way. Some people struggle more in the social aspects than the sensory-motor aspects, and vice versa. There seems to be a stereotype where autistic people are very blunt, do not socialize with others period, and that they come off as non-empathetic to the point of being borderline (if not, completely) sociopathic, which is not always the case.

The way that autism may “appear” depends on the individual and his or her life. In fact, there are tons of people who have been confirmed to be on the spectrum who you would not expect to have the disorder. One of the most prominent is Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the Pokémon franchise. Another example would be the actor Dan Aykroyd.

In summary, just because you’ve seen a little bit of this person, it doesn’t mean you know everything that goes on with them. Take what people say to you into consideration and privately generate your own conclusions from there.

Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.

Summer fun for young adults: biking and climbing!

Late summer is a great time to get active — whether outside or inside! Join Aspiring Youth for one or all of our activities geared toward young adults with any ability level.


Learn how to climb and make new friends at Seattle Bouldering Project. An Aspiring Youth facilitator will be present to help guide this informal evening. Pizza and beer afterwards!

  • When: August 20 and 27, September 10, 17 and 24

  • Time: 4:30-6:30pm

  • Where: Seattle Bouldering Project



A day of cycling around Magnuson Park is a great way to build confidence, try a new experience and establish relationships. Join Aspiring Youth and Outdoors for All for both of these exciting outings!

  • When: August 27 and September 2

  • Time: 12:30-4:30pm

  • Where: Meet at Ryther, 2400 NE 95th St in Seattle

  • Bicycles are provided!


There’s an app for that: online resources for mental well-being and support

One of the questions I’m freqbooks-484766_1280uently asked by our young clients and their parents is, “What other resources are out there for [insert their concern here]?” I chuckle at how obvious a topic this can be, especially for our blog, but seeking out other resources can be helpful.

First and foremost: if you have any psychological concerns, of course seek out a mental health professional. If you are looking for social skills coaching, Aspiring Youth is a great resource.

What exists as easy-to-access, supplementary resources for adolescents, young adults and their parents? There are many, but let’s take a look at a few I like and, in some cases, personally use.

How to ADHD

Jessica McCabe is a Los Angeles actress who, as an adult, received a diagnosis of 23280349432_a86bbcdc28_zADHD. She researched what that means, the likely effects on her life and how to overcome it, resulting in her very engaging YouTube series: How to ADHD. She is not a clinician, nevertheless her insights are well-informed. This includes tips for living with and overcoming some of the challenges of ADHD and other diagnoses.

Autism sensory simulators

Many who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum experience sensations very idiosyncratically: some are sensitive to touch, some to lights or sounds and, for others, smell is overwhelming. For those with more neurotypical development, these challenges are difficult to imagine. Thankfully, some wonderful online simulations can illustrate these experiences, often created by someone with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Mashable collected five great representations of these.

Apps for to-do lists

For some (and I’m squarely in this camp), doing routine tasks is a serious challenge. “I’ll do it later,” really translates to, “I fully intend on doing it, and I’ll do it when – oh! I love this song! Did you know that the composer was inspired by – wait. What was I saying?”

Different apps exist for making tasks more enjoyable, or at least memorable. Habitica (my favorite) truly gamifies to-do lists and daily tasks. In this role playing game (RPG), your character gains experience points and levels for completing tasks and takes damage for tasks left unfinished. With group challenges, quests, and bosses – plus an extremely supportive forum community– Habitica provides an opportunity for me to monitor my lists and check off items as I complete them. Oh, and it’s also free to play!


Mindfulness is a big deal in the psychology world. My colleagues and I use it within a variety of situations.  I checked out Headspace, and the feedback I’ve received from clients has been overwhelmingly positive. The program gently guides you in different mindfulness modules, all in 10-minute portions. While it’s a paid app (with a free trial), I think it’s worth it.


I have written about this topic previously because it is so important and comes up often with adolescents and young adults.  Advice on the internet ranges from laughable to outright scary and misogynistic. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: don’t visit websites by people in the pickup artist (PUA) or seduction community. Their advice often relies on negating consent or assuming that one person is owed affection and/or a date, and your curious visit nabs them more site traffic and subsequent income.

My favorite resource in the dating domain is Dr. NerdLove, as he provides straightforward advice recognizing that girlfriends/boyfriends are not titles or prizes, but actual people with different needs and autonomy. Geek’s Dream Girl­ is another resource that offers solid, concrete advice from a woman’s perspective. While it’s no longer updated (though there are hints at its impending resurrection), the info is still there and accessible.

Hopefully, these suggestions give you a start. As I said, there are many resources out there that can be used in conjunction with social skills coaching.

What are your favorites? Feel free to comment below with your suggestions for online resources.

R BoccamazzoR. Boccamazzo, PsyD, LMHCA

Dr. Boccamazzo is a doctor of clinical psychology and social skills coach with Aspiring Youth. In addition, he is the clinical director of, a national nonprofit focused on mental health and the gamer community, runs a private psychology practice in Bellevue offering individual therapy and psychological assessment to adolescents and adults, and provides parent and clinician trainings on technology in psychology. Much of his work focuses on high functioning autism, problematic technology usage, social anxiety, trauma and games. In his spare time, he enjoys acting, cooking, board games and video games.

Through our eyes: Becoming an adult

The “Through our eyes” series invites you to hear and learn from the perspectives of young adults in our community living with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities or other social challenges.

I am twenty three years old as of this post. I am currently an intern at Ryther working alongside the Video Production and Building & Inventing camps, the team running the blog and many other staff members. In the short time that I have been an adult, I have noticed some things about myself that are different than from when I was younger, aside from the obvious things (old enough to drink, vote etc.).

In middle and most of high school, I was sort of shy and was embarrassed about myself and the things I liked. I was afraid that people would pick on me because of my rather narrowed interests. When I was younger, video game and anime enthusiasts seemed to get picked on a lot. I was also a lot less sociable when it came to other kids, and when I did socialize, it was clear that I was very awkward.

Now that I’m older, I find it easier to socialize with people and be more open with myself. However, there are times where I feel my “inner aspie” slip out, and I seem extremely awkward to other people. There are also times when I’m not really sure what to do in a social situation, so I always find myself winging it. So far, I haven’t been yelled at, so it must be working. The motor-sensory side of my Asperger’s has been pretty much the same throughout the years (ex. wool makes my skin feel itchy, dance clubs are too noisy, etc.).

The bottom line is: because I’ve gotten older and have gained a bit more experience in life, I feel a lot more confident about myself.

Sara Breidenbach is an intern helping with Aspiring Youth summer camps. She is also a student at Bellevue College where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Digital Media Arts in the fall of 2016.