“My son thinks lunch just shows up at the dinner table,” says Richa Gupta (name changed for privacy reasons). “He has no idea of the process it takes to get there, that there are such things as grocery stores and menu planning.” Richa’s son Raj, who is a junior at the Orion Academy in Lafayette, CA, also frequently loses his Bart ticket, his jacket, his water bottle..the list goes on.
While this may sound like most teenagers at some point or the other, Raj is on the autistic spectrum, diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and what are minor organizational issues for neurotypical kids are magnified several times for him. Richa wonders how he will cope in a year and a half from now, when kids his age typically graduate high school and begin a life of independence at college.
The Orion Academy, where Raj studies, is specifically geared to children with Aspergers, and is very focused on helping them transition to life in the mainstream. As part of that process, the Academy hosts an annual Transitions Seminar where eminent speakers are invited to speak on the theme of the seminar, which varies from year to year. Vendors providing services geared to the theme are also invited, and the day-long seminar becomes a gathering place for the community of caregivers for children on the spectrum.
This year’s theme is “Spectrum Teens as Adults: IQ vs. EQ” where specialists will present on the finding that kids on the spectrum, while often gifted with special talents, have a considerable challenge in managing the details of everyday life and making and sustaining social relationships. As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I can vouch for the lag in emotional maturity that these kids have, where a social understanding that is evident to my neurotypical 10-year-old is missing from the 17-year-old Aspie.
“Parents get burnt out dealing with the social deficits of their spectrum kids,” adds Richa, who is one of the organizers of the seminar. “It helps to meet other people in the same situation and learn from the experts. You may not get all the answers you want in just that one day, but it will be a good start for planning for the future.”
Check out the Orion Academy’s Transition Seminar if you are a caregiver or a service provider to teens on the spectrum. Details are in the flyer below.