New Course in Social Competency of Health Education

“The Talk”

New England Tutors, under the professional guidance of our special education program director, Cindy Ziobrowski, has created a new class for parents of ASD children and those with social skills deficits. To be started in October of this year, this class is designed with the particular needs of this population and their parents in mind. If you are the parent of a special needs child, you know the need for directed help in certain areas, health education being one of the most important.

I’m going to turn this post over to Cindy, so you can get the full depth of her knowledge and experience. So check out our Registration page for the official announcement, dates, and how you can sign up for this invaluable class.

Like all teens, those with ASD or social skills deficits are curious about physical and emotional changes that come with puberty.

As the special education program director for New England Tutors and Executive Director of Camp CARD NE, a social skills summer camp, I face this challenge often. The nature of a teen with ASD means when a question comes to mind, it becomes a topic of conversation! While on the one hand asking questions is good, a summer camp setting is not an appropriate place to get into a conversation as important, and as delicate, as this. Parents frequently ask how to approach this subject. Concerns for most parents focus on “How can I keep my teen safe?” “My teen has difficulty making friends, now she wants a boyfriend!” “My son is hearing all sorts of talk in the locker room and I don’t know what to do!”

Parents are equipped to discuss the ‘mechanical’ part of sex education, but teens on the spectrum need direct instruction on the social aspects involved.

It’s much more critical that “sexuality” gets discussed with teens with ASD because they have more naivety and greater scope for danger. Teaching a teenager with ASD sexuality and puberty information is crucial. This is not information you want him to learn from his classmates, or worse, by doing his own internet searches. Yet subtle explanations about sexuality will not register or may be misinterpreted. To help the adolescent understand healthy boundaries, they must have explicit teaching as to what is appropriate depending on the adolescent’s age and social abilities. Society’s norms on sexuality will not be intuitive to the teen with ASD. The subtle cues of dating and healthy relationships will be difficult to navigate. Appropriate sexual behaviors and social rules for interpersonal relationships can be confusing for people on the spectrum. Difficulty with impulse control mixed with a lack of social understanding can lead to inappropriate sexual behaviors.

The Talk in a Safe and Supportive Setting

There are books that can aid in discussing this topic. Schools offer health classes, but they may not focus on the social skills aspect. A counselor or trained professional may be another idea.

If you are feeling uncomfortable about ‘going it alone’, I have created a program for the New England Tutors client community called “Social Competency of Health Education”. Using a curriculum specifically tailored to the needs of teens with ASD and social skills deficits, certified teachers present factual information with appropriate social skills to form a connection. Sessions include a variety of teaching methods such as social stories, role playing, visual representations and games to allow all styles of learners to benefit. Individual and small group instruction help keep the pace and rate of information manageable.

 – Cindy Ziobrowski, Special Education Program Director – New England Tutors, and Executive Director of Camp CARD NE.

We are excited to be able to offer this high-demand and very unique class for the Seacoast Area Community. These classes will start in October, and we plan to offer them throughout the year. Just check out our Registration page for dates, pricing, and pre-registration information. These classes will be limited to 5 participants and we expect to sell out fast.

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