Working With Autism, an autism service organization, plans to hold a free informational workshop for autistic teenagers and their parents at Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School on March 24, event officials announced Monday.
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The workshop will provide information about an upcoming peer group called the Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills, or PEERS, which is geared toward helping autistic teens develop social skills, according to a news release by Working With Autism, or WWA.
Autism is defined by the Autism Society as a developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, affecting one in every 88 births, according to a March 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s a huge need for the program for teens in general,” said Dr. Hilya Delband, director of clinical development at WWA. “The majority of services and therapies out there are for early intervention. As kids get older, there are fewer programs in general. Difficulties with social skills have a huge impact on teenagers, so it can really change their quality of life to have some of these skills under their belt.”
PEERS was originally created at the University of California, Los Angeles, and school officials recently certified WWA staff to provide the program throughout Los Angeles county, WWA officials said.
“The program has a high degree of success,” Delband said. “It is actually shown to be one of the only types of social-skills groups… where the research data is showing that it is effective in the long run, not just in the group, but after it ends as well.”
The program focuses on issues that autistic teens tend to have difficulty with, such as team activities, rejection and bullying, and will be run by Jamie Dewitt, behavior intervention supervisor at WWA, according to the news release.
Dewitt has more than eight years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum and a high rate of success in building connections with teens, as well as motivating them to engage in social interactions, WWA officials said.
Autism specialists will be present at the workshop to provide information to parents about the benefits of PEERS, as well as answer general questions about how the program may help their teen develop social skills, event officials said.
The free workshop is geared toward families who have a child on the autism spectrum between the ages of 11 and 18 years old, and is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 24 at the SCVi campus, located at 28060 Hasley Canyon Road in Castaic. To reserve seats, call WWA at 818-501-4240.
For more information about Working With Autism, click here.
SCVNews.com contributed to this report.
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