Aging Out of Autism Services

My son has been in a social skills group since he was three years old. When he turns thirteen this year, he will “officially” age out of this group.

What is social skills group?

Social skills group is a structured play group with four to six children who are relatively near each other on the autism spectrum. They have two facilitators who strive to encourage the group to communicate, play, and interact with each other.

My son was young when he started at age three. However, the facility (at that time) had three or four other kids who were similar to my son. The facility began a social skills group with these four kids.

That group of kids stayed together for several years. One member and my son stayed together for eight years, and we’re friends with them to this day.

Was it successful?

During the first year, the parents were so thrilled with this program that we began to discuss a two a week meeting. We all contacted our respective regional centers (for California only) and asked our case workers if it were possible to get funded for a second social skills group.

It worked!

The group met twice a week for several years.

Of course, the group who lose a member/gain a new member every once in a while. Plus, that was not just limited to kids. Facilitators have a tendency to pull around and/or go back to school, so the group did see change overs in facilitators.

How did my son progress?

My son progressed for several years, but around age eight he hit a plateau.

The facilitator suggested he switch one of his groups to a partner situation, one facilitator for my son, plus one other child with their own facilitator.

That situation lasted for two years until the regional center and the facility decided to “graduate” my son from the partner situation.

When I asked about putting him back into the second social skills group, they said they won’t fund it, one group was enough for him (apparently).

Now what is happening?

Now, it’s an age out situation, according to the regional center and the facility.

Do I agree with it?

Not at all.

I will ask my son’s case worker to explain why the regional center and the facility feels as if age thirteen is the “age out” age for social skills training for our kids.

The facility offers a “Teen Group” to replace the social skills group—however it appears as if it’s less structured, and the days this group meets are less convenient for us.

The idea of an “age out” perplexes me.

My son just began in his age appropriate group one year ago, and now he has to leave because of a blanket policy that says, “Your kids should have appropriate social skills by a certain age (thirteen).”

I know that other California parents are in similar situations. I can’t imagine I’m the only parent out there saying, “Well, this group is really helping my son, he’s progressing nicely, he just began it and has really made some great friends, why don’t we keep it for another year or two? Why is it just over because a certain age has hit? Is that an individual program for each child? How is attaching an age considered an individual policy?”

Hopefully, it’ll work out. Still, some of these autism-related polices continue to baffle me.

 

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