Here is a sampling of the projects and initiatives the ASERT Collaborative is working on to help address unmet needs in Pennsylvania. These are being implemented on a small scale in one or more of the ASERT regions with a goal of expanding each project in the future.
Adult Diagnostic & Assessment Clinics
This project involves developing and expanding autism diagnosis and assessment clinics specifically targeting the older adolescent/adult population. There will be a focus on more in-depth assessment of mental health co-morbidities (e.g., anxiety, depression, personality) and neuropsychological factors (e.g., executive functioning, memory, learning, attention). An increase in accurate identification of ASD for young adults and adults will lead to better treatment outcomes.
Autism Life Care Model (ALCM)
Autism Life Care Model (ALCM) emphasizes comprehensive, evidence-based care approached in a systematic manner throughout an individual’s lifetime. The goal is to create a comprehensive system of care to support an individual, his/her family, and the community throughout critical phases of development, beginning with the transition to adulthood. An additional goal is to ensure that individual and family needs are thoroughly considered in a coordinated manner and that necessary services and training are in place to meet these needs.
Life Coach for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Life Coaches are professionals who guide adults with ASD through the complex social, academic and employment environments in their community. Each Life Coach will develop individualized life plans based on exploratory interviews with the individuals culminating in a life map and action plans to accomplish the person’s personal and professional goals. Based on the results of exploratory interviews and other diagnostic testing, the Life Coach will help the individual access existing community resources as warranted, i.e., the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Adult Basic Education and/or other academic endeavors, Social Security, Office of Disabilities, Housing Authority, etc.
Club House Model for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Traditionally the Club House is a model of psychosocial rehabilitation for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. The philosophy of the Club House emphasizes, Work Ordered Day, Employment Programs, Social and Recreational Programs, Community Support, Reach Out, Decision Making and Governance. ASERT has begun research and development of a model of support based on the Club House that specifically meets the unique needs of adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. A pilot program is running in the Western region with the goal of future expansion. The ultimate goal is to identify the Club House with psychosocial rehabilitation components as sustainable support service for adults with ASD across the state.
Adult and Adolescent Multimedia Social Skills
The Multimedia Social Skills Groups are projects which consist of two social skills groups, one for teens (ages 13 to 17 years old) and the other for young adults (ages 18 to 30 years old) who have high functioning autism or Asperger’s Disorder. This intervention has been found to improve social skills for individuals with high social anxiety and self-perceived social deficits. These social skills groups include skills building (e.g., how to make and keep friends, dating and relationships, employment-specific social skills) paired with video modeling and a peer generalization component for social skills practice. Social Skills groups are currently running in the Central region with the goal of expanding to sites statewide. The adolescent social skills group project will focus on developing training materials for professionals to deliver this intervention, which has been effective in improving social fluency for individuals with high social anxiety.