People Magazine: Can Joey Make A Friend?
“I couldn’t fit in” -Joey
This was an interesting article that appeared in the recent issue of people magazine. The subject of the article is Joey, a 17-year-old teenager with mild autism. He is just like any other teenager his age, attending a regular high school, listening to his iPod incessantly, and very bright, he just has problems with social interactions, starting conversation, making eye contact, telling jokes. His parents switched him from a special education classroom into a regular classroom which brought about severe problems of OCD and depression which they worked to control, but it did not change the fact that he did not have any friends.
This past summer, to help out with his lack of social skills, his parents enrolled him in the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) which is run by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. If you read the article, it depicts some of the topics the class went over and helped the students with. After the course, Joey made huge gains and is using his skills to make new friends, organize social outings, attend parties and even auditioning for school plays.
This is an inspirational story that hits on the fact that individuals with autism are not completely lost when it comes to social interactions, some behaviors such as the ability to anticipate others are thinking or feeling, or simply being able to make a joke just needs to be taught. Joey is a great example for how the simple teaching of these skills can be life changing to individuals who lack the appropriate skills to interact with their peers. It is the difference between not being able to make friends and having a friend to enjoy life with.
Here is a link to the PEERS website
This is a video of a CBS news report on the PEERS program that will be of interest to those who are further interested in what the program is and seeks to teach those with high functioning autism.