At Autism Personal Coach, we work with adults and teens. This means that parents are a big part of the team supporting our clients. In a previous blog post, we introduced Kerri, who is herself one of our clients in Ohio. Kerri also has a teen daughter named Samantha, who is also one of our clients.
Parents often have questions about the work we do and what it looks like to be part of a personal coach experience. Here, Kerri answers some of these questions and shares how Autism Personal Coach supports Samantha.
Samantha was diagnosed with autism as a toddler by the same neurologist she still sees as a teen. Kerri has helped Samantha navigate occupational therapy, speech therapy, play therapy, early intervention, workshops, and trainings. We are sure any parent of a child on the autism spectrum can relate to the wide world of services to navigate in supporting your children!
While many of our clients in Pennsylvania can get full-service care providers to come to their home and the school environment until age 21, our clients in Ohio do not always have these options. Kerri says, “I recorded all [Samantha’s] therapies and supplemented interventions myself, through what I learned.” Given all that work, Kerri needed support to coordinate Samantha’s services and make sure she was getting the help she needed at school and in the community. Kerri hired Autism Personal Coach to help her navigate IEP meetings at school and support Samantha with life and social skills.
She works with Doug to coordinate Samantha’s care. Kerri says that, “coordinating all of the supports can be very overwhelming at times.” Doug attends meetings with Kerri, taking notes and supporting Samantha at school, counselor appointments, and even social outings.
More specifically, Doug takes Samantha on walks or to the gym. Doug incorporated a technique called bal-a-vis-x into his sessions with Samantha, which is a brain exercise done outdoors to help increase focus.
We say that our coaches help clients to build life skills to succeed in the community. For Samantha, this means Doug is teaching her how to grocery shop and navigate the checkout line. Samantha’s favorite experience with her Autism Personal Coach is going to Subway, where she can now go in and order on her own!
There is another chapter to Samantha’s story, and an additional way that Kerri wanted support from Autism Personal Coach: Samantha is a transgender teen. Our staff at Autism Personal Coach is very familiar with the intersection of LGBTIA+ identity and autism.
Kerri has a great deal of anxiety and fear surrounding her daughter’s interpersonal relationships. There are big questions like “Is she safe being truthful with this person?” on top of the already-difficult experience autistic people have in interpreting social cues. Kerri has noticed that Samantha has fear and anxiety about leaving their apartment.
Samantha has difficulty initiating relationships (or even conversation) with peers because of the question “what comes next?” For a transgender teen, the world is filled with uncertainty. Kerri says Samantha constantly worries about which bathroom to use or whether others can see what’s under her clothing. Samantha even feels anxious that something about the way she walks will give away an aspect of her identity she might not feel safe sharing with others.
Autism Personal Coach staff are familiar with the fears and real safety concerns for our LGBTIA+ neighbors. Our goal is to provide a safe and compassionate space for our clients and to create a plan to overcome obstacles.
Doug has accompanied Samantha several times on trips to the local LGBT center and even facilitated social meetings with another client similar to Sam. While the supported conversation went well, when Doug asked the teens if they wanted to exchange phone numbers, neither one of them felt ready to do that.
Kerri says Sam felt like they really hit it off together, but got stuck about what to do next. How should she reach out? How should she follow up after a good conversation with someone else? Kerri says, “Relationships continue for an indefinite amount of time, and it’s terrifying. It’s easier sometimes to just never start one.”
Social relationships are something our coaches focus on more than anything else. We hear our clients when they tell us they feel isolated, but also unsure how to fix that. Autism Personal Coach hosts a number of group events (such as dinners and game nights), and Doug will continue to support Samantha whether she’s looking to buy a turkey sub or make a new friend.
Do you have an autistic teen who is struggling socially? How could Autism Personal Coach help you overcome those challenges?