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.
As individuals with autism age into adulthood, many new barriers emerge than interfere with success, happiness, and accessing the community as an adult. To better understand these barriers and to better identify opportunities to promote successful transition to adulthood, Dr. Stobbe will review what is currently known about the autism trajectory, co-occuring medical and mental health conditions, and the balance of assisting our loved ones while at the same time promoting their independence.
Date: Thursday, May 26, 2016
About Dr. Gary Stobbe
Dr. Stobbe is a Board Certified Neurologist sub-specializing in the field of cognitive and behavioral neurology. Dr. Stobbe joined the University of Washington School of Medicine faculty in 2008 and is Clinical Assistant Professor of both Psychiatry and Neurology, specializing in autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury. In 2009, Dr. Stobbe helped establish the Seattle Children’s Autism Center, and currently serves as Director of Adolescent and Adult Services. Dr. Stobbe also helped establish the UW Medicine Adult Autism Clinic and is currently serving as Medical Director, and is the Director of the Adults and Elders Program at the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at UW. Research experience includes numerous medication treatment clinical trials in autism as well as heath care systems and delivery.
Suggested reading: Roux, A.M., Shattuck, P.T., Rast, J. E., Rava, J. A., and Anderson, K.A. (2015). National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University.
Thinking about college can be an intimidating challenge for teens on the autism spectrum, but maybe even more so for their parents.
How will children manage without their special education case managers? How will they do without their social-emotional or behavioral supports in place? Might they flounder in the seas of large lecture classrooms? And of course those executive functioning skills: attention, organization, planning…
You may be thinking: “Is this even an option for my child?”
College is challenging for all, but more so for adolescents who have difficulty with changing environments, new social dynamics and handling responsibility. Thankfully, there are some programs in place to make the high school to college transition a little bit easier. Aspiring Youth offers adult transition programs and individual coaching that can help. Some colleges are now offering support or transition programs to young adults on the autism spectrum. Specifically, there are two options in Washington state:
Seattle Central College offers a program called SAILS (Supported Academics and Independent Life Skills). In College 101, students tour the campus, explore interests and develop organizational, time management and independent living skills. Building a relationship with staff helps throughout the year. Once school starts, students in the SAILS program benefit from small class sizes and continued individualized assistance. Your student could even get a job through the Mainstay program which offers employment for students of varying abilities.
Bellevue College offers a support program: Autism Spectrum Navigators (ASN) Program. The program focuses on supporting the development of executive functioning, social interaction, self-advocacy and self-regulation skills. ASN provides regular meetings with a trained peer mentor, quarterly career preparation classes, quarterly parent meetings, facilitated communication with instructors and campus awareness and training.
If your child is leaning toward an out-of-state college experience, there are also options for support programs. Post-secondary programs range from community colleges to universities, such as a Rutgers University, University of Alabama and Virginia TECH. For a list and brief overview of schools, visit this website.
Breea M. Rosas, B.A., Ed. S. Candidate
Breea 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 the coursework for an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology in Spring 2015, with an anticipated graduation date of Spring 2016 upon the completion of an internship with the Franklin Pierce School District. Professionally, Breea has worked with Aspiring Youth as a lead facilitator for summer camp 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. She is interested in social emotional learning, educational implications of social/emotional and behavioral disorders, supporting youth with behavioral disorders, and the trajectory of students with disabilities post-high school. In her spare time, she likes to read, particularly historical fiction and non-fiction, bake, and spend time with her family.