Ensure your teen with autism learns how to make friends

Back to blogA week ago by Toni
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Kirsten Quinn looking into the camera.
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Does your teen have difficulty making and keeping friends? Do they have other social challenges that prevent them from being included with peers?

If the answer is yes, PEERS is here to help!

“Teen years are difficult at the best of times and when there’s a disability such as autism, being able to be socially accepted is even more challenging,” says Kirsten Quinn, Coordinator Youth Projects, Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

“As an adult it’s interesting to ask yourself how you learnt to make and keep friends, handle social situations and deal with awkward moments because we all have struggled at some point. We all have to learn and to be taught.”

While most parents worry about how their teens are faring socially, the parents of teenagers who live with social or emotional challenges such as autism have specific concerns.

The good news is that Kirsten is among the few Australians who have been trained in an evidence-based social skills intervention program developed by Dr Elizabeth Laugeson, at the University of California, Los Angeles.

PEERS (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) is an intervention that helps teens and young adults who have autism learn ways to make and keep friends.

“It’s a fun, motivating and engaging program where skills and behaviors are taught in a structured way so that the teen or young person feels accepted. Parents are an integral component of the intervention where they learn skills to support their child through this program,” explains Kirsten who will lead a PEERS Social Skills course aimed at 13 to 17 year olds, at the Allambie Heights Campus, beginning Wednesday 6 September.

During each group session, the teen is taught important step-by-step ecologically valid social skills and is given the opportunity to practice these skills with a coach.

Parents will follow the same program material with the aim of assisting their teen by providing coachable moments during weekly practice tasks.

The program covers most of the areas that can make the teen years tricky to navigate such as:

•             How to use appropriate conversational skills

•             How to find common interests by trading information

•             How to appropriately use humor and assess humor feedback

•             How to enter and exit conversations between peers

•             How to organise get-togethers

•             How to choose appropriate friends

•             How to be a good sport

•             How to handle arguments and disagreements

•             How to change a bad reputation

•             How to handle rejection, teasing, and bullying, rumors and gossip

“It’s a brilliant and engaging program,” Kirsten says. “We recently ran one with a group of young adults and the feedback was terrific.”


This program can be funded using your NDIS package. There are a number of options, so to discuss what will work best for you, phone Cerebral Palsy Alliance on 1300 888 378. 

PEERS Social Skills Program

For: 13 to 17 years

When: Wednesdays, 5.30pm to 7.30pm for 15 weeks

From: Wednesday 6 September – 13 December 2017

Where: Allambie Heights Campus, 187 Allambie Road, Allambie Heights, Sydney.

Register: Call 1300 888 378 or email youth@cerebralpalsy.org.au

Book now as places are limited. Or send us your details to hear about upcoming PEERS programs.