Making A Difference For Young Adults With Autism

This story, written by Abbie Richert, was originally published in Plateau Living (April 2017) with a similar article in Madison Park Living (April 2017). You can find local copies in Sammamish or Madison Valley (Seattle). It is reprinted here with permission from the author.


For young adults with autism, visibility and acceptance in the community are cornerstones of their personal and professional growth. Yet, there’s an overall lack of resources to support these young adults as they navigate life after high school. That’s where Delphi Young Adults comes in—a program that offers critical support during this transition period.

A local non-profit called Ryther, which provides psychiatric and behavioral health services for children and their families facing complex challenges started Delphi Young Adults. Ben Wahl, Program Director of Ryther’s Aspiring Youth Program said for autistic young adults, “The 18-24 age range is so important because it’s kind of that point at which they can go either way: they can get stuck and isolated, or become a part of the community.”

“We are really seeking to have community for young adults,” Ben said. “When they are school aged kids and around their peers, it’s about building skills. They didn’t always thrive socially at school, but at least they had that opportunity. But when they hit 18 they don’t.” They lose a built-in community, which is why Delphi Young Adults is desperately needed.

This year, Ryther will officially launch Delphi Young Adults. Parts of the program such as the Delphi Social Club, Workspace (group work projects) and a seminar project called Life 101 are already in the works. Whereas, a project called The Commons (residential living) should fall into place in the near future.

The program’s backbone is built on the Delphi Social Club, which seeks to build community through planned social outlets. Ben said the Delphi Social Club is “A place to come together over shared interests.” The groups do anything from bowling to karaoke to indoor rock climbing. A secondary focus of the social program is identity building. “We like the term neuro-diverse,” Ben said. It’s a little broader and not, ‘hey, I’m going to this bowling thing because I’ve been diagnosed with autism,’ it’s just, ‘I’m quirky.’” Ben added that, “The Delphi Social Club has it’s own website.” Equipped with have interactive online circles, social club goers can contribute stories, video game reviews and more, and communicate about events taking place in the community. “It’s a way for them to connect, and it’s way better than Facebook.”

Ben also said a number of young adults want to get involved on a deeper level. Rather than simply attending an event, they want to be a part of building and running it, which is why Workspace was created. Workspace is “A weekly group; they work on different projects and ideas, and right now they are working on the Delphi Social Club website.”

The coaching aspect of Delphi focuses on helping the young person navigate community college. “It’s a little bit like therapy, but coaching is a little more concrete,” Ben said. “We are not taking a psychological approach, but more of, ‘Are we are keeping track of community college assignments?’ ‘Are we budgeting?’ ‘Are we building independent living skills?’ That’s really important because a lot of my folks are employable and smart and very loyal and trustworthy.” Coaching goes hand and hand with Delphi’s Life 101 project. Ben said Life 101 is all about ‘adulting.’ They hold seminars focused on money management, cooking, dating, jobs, health and wellness.

At Delphi, overall wellness, independent living skills and social skills are competencies seen as important as being employable. “One of our outputs involves independence, Ben said. “If that involves a job, then by all means, but maybe it’s a slower progression. But it’s important that we continue to provide community.”

Delphi also plans to provide support through a program called The Commons, which Ben said is “A supportive dorm type situation, sort of a co-op.” Delphi is looking toward the model of micro-housing and is currently in talks with Neiman Taber Architects to obtain four units in their micro-housing buildings for young adults with autism. Although it’s a huge aspiration, they are hoping it will come together within the year.

Delphi brings the topic of community inclusion to the table. “We are really learning how to reach out to them and make them visible,” Ben said. “Working with young adults is really interesting. With young adults it becomes a broader initiative; between 18-24 if they’re involved in the community, if they’re gaining skills they’re going to integrate and will go on this path of being part of the community.”

Ben has worked with many young adults across the Plateau and encourages the community to continually stay involved. This summer, in partnership with R.E.I., he plans to lead trail building and restoration groups in Fall City, which is a great and nearby opportunity for Sammamish residents.

 For more information on Delphi Young Adults visit aspiringyouth.net or call 206.517.0241.

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Aspiring Youth Running Club competes in first 5k

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On Saturday November 19th, the Aspiring Youth Running Club took to the trails at Carkeek Park to compete in the team’s first 5k. Despite the rain and mud, our runners showed up with a positive attitude and support for one another. They did an incredible job navigating hills, stairs, and the occasional fallen tree, with […]

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.

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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.

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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.