Accent on Autism

Young Adults on the Spectrum

Let’s Get Social With It: How PEERS Helps

You can make that date you’ve been dreaming of, tell a funny joke, host a party, even deal with rejection. Those social situations can seem daunting for some, yet many are manageable with the right social coaching. Think PEERS.


An awkward dating moment for Shaun, who has autism,  and Carly on ABC’s “The Good Doctor.”

PEERS, short for the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills, is a 16-week, deep-dive social skills training program for those on the spectrum and their parent or caregiver. Over the weeks, the structured group training sessions focus on a number of skills. Key topics include how to:

  • Pick appropriate friends.
  • Appropriately use text, email, social media sites.
  • Use humor and figure out how the joke went over.
  • Get in and out of conversations between peers.
  • Hold successful gatherings with friends.
  • Get a date and handle dating.
  • Settle disputes with friends and others.
  • Handle teasing, bullying, and gossip.

PEERS was developed at UCLA by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who has since trained thousands of educators, mental health professionals, and families in the PEERS method. There are PEERS programs in more than 70 countries. 

The instruction is classroom-based and incorporates a variety of teaching techniques from role-playing to behavioral rehearsals to virtual coaching, which uses apps, to make it easier to learn in a supportive environment. Click on the link to find certified PEERS providers in your area.

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Asperger's, Autism, On the spectrum, social skills | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doing Church When You’re “On the Spectrum”

More churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship acknowledge that they have a long way to go in meeting the needs of those on the spectrum. Most of the work so far has focused on serving the needs of children and teens. McLean Bible Church in Tysons Corner, Virginia, is one congregation leading the way and setting a roadmap for others. An increasing number of places, however, are also finding ways to make their spaces and ministries more welcoming for young adults on the spectrum. They are providing specialized training and education to staff, ministry leaders, teachers and volunteers to help them understand what autism is and to explain some of the challenges adults with autism might experience in large and small group settings. Some have even added Special Needs Ministries and hired pastors who specialize in counseling services. Others, such as GraceWay Church in Leesburg, Florida, have begun outreach ministries to provide meaningful experiences and social activities. GraceWay Grounds & Cafe is a coffee shop run by young adults with autism. Writer David Delgado, who is on the spectrum, shares tips for getting the most out of the church experience. Among his top tips: Develop one-on-one relationships; try small groups; manage the potential for sensory overload; pray.

November 1, 2019 Posted by | Autism, On the spectrum, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

D. L. Hughley: My Son with Asperger’s “Is Going to Be Alright”

KyleI love reading and watching stories of young adults finding success in life. The latest comes from comedian D. L. Hughley whose son Kyle was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child. Kyle is 26 now, a college graduate and he’s working. But there are still new triumphs to celebrate. Listen to Hughley talking about the latest one with Oprah Winfrey.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Asperger’s is Just a Word: Focus on the Right Services for Your Child

Our son started off in a local private preschool. He was bright, energetic and engaged. But his teacher noticed that he didn’t always follow directions. She thought he might have a hearing problem.

So we took him to our county’s early intervention program and had him tested. His first diagnosis was “pervasive developmental delays.” He was 2½ years old, and we were in shock.

My husband and I rushed to get him every type of support available. There wasphysical therapy, occupational therapy, sensory integration sessions and speech therapy. We played with him, read with him and loved him.

We started him at a public preschool program for kids with special needs in the morning. In the afternoon, he continued at the private preschool. There, he could see his friends and interact with kids who were more developmentally typical.

We also hired an educational consultant to learn about our school options. By the time our son reached age 5, he had a new diagnosis: “Asperger’s syndrome.” We knew about learning and attention issues, of course. But we’d never heard of Asperger’s. To read more about our journey, go to

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Talking Tech Jobs: Thorkil Sonne

Thorkil Sonne generated worldwide interest a few years ago when stories surfaced about his success in tapping the unique talents and skills of workers with autism in Denmark. Sonne, who has a son with autism, created Specialisterne to assess, train and hire people with autism. His work there has generated change across the technology industry and inspired scores of other tech giants to follow his lead, including Microsoft, SAP, Freddie Mac, EwC, JPMorgan Chase and EY. Sonne estimates more than 10,000 jobs have been created for workers on the spectrum. His hope is that by 2030 that number will rise to a million, he told the World Economic Forum. Sonne believes that’s needed to ensure that there are enough innovative and resilient workers for the next Industrial Revolution. So, if you’re hoping to ride the next big wave of employment, a career in tech might be a great option.


August 18, 2014 Posted by | Asperger's, Autism, On the spectrum, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Optional autism code on driver’s licenses: New law hits speed bump with some

I’m generally an optimistic person. But I always like to be aware of the potential downside of things — particularly when it concerns laws and regulations related to people on the autism spectrum. Which brings me to a law that went into effect this month in Virginia. As of July 1, Virginia drivers with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or others on the autism spectrum can volunteer to have an autism code embedded on their driver’s license. Ditto for non-drivers who carry a state identification card.

The new law has raised concern among some drivers and disability advocates who worry about the potential for discrimination from law enforcement in the future. 

The idea is that if stopped by law enforcement, displaying the card with the autism designation might keep police from misunderstanding any unusual behavior the person might display. My fear, however, is that a law meant for good could easily be used for ill. There’s no evidence that adults on the spectrum are better or worse drivers than the rest of the driving population — nor that they have more or less accidents. But the new law has raised concern among some drivers on the autism spectrum — as well as disability advocates — who are worried that they might face discrimination from law enforcement in the future if their licenses bear such a designation. 

Fortunately JP’s Law, as it is sometimes called, is voluntary. It is up to the individual driver to opt-in. Pam Mines says her 9-year-old son with autism was the catalyst for her pushing Virginia lawmakers to adopt an optional autism code that could appear on state identification cards and driver’s licenses. For Mines, it was a pre-emptive strike in case her son ever encountered law enforcement and could not articulate his disability.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Asperger's | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autism cases soar once again in the U.S.


It doesn’t surprise me that the number of autism and autism-related cases in this country continues to rise. The report out today just makes it official. 1 in 68 U.S. children have an autism-spectrum-related disorder, up from the previously thought 1 in 100. In ways, the rising rates are predictable, thanks to simple math. More kids (and adults) are aware of autism and autism-spectrum issues, more doctors are knowledgeable about autism, so more cases are bound to be diagnosed. Couple that with the links that researchers see between older mothers and an increase in the number of children born who have autism or are on the spectrum — and voila! Boys are more than four times as likely to be affected as girls. Just think: Autism rates jumped about 30% between 2008 and 2010, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And those are just the latest figures we have. Who knows what the number would be if we could take a snapshot this very minute. Why is this happening? The million-dollar question is whether something in the environment plays a role, says Robert Ring of Autism Speaks. 


March 27, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Asperger’s and Honesty

Carol Shay Hornung, Author

Can people with Asperger’s lie? It would be nice to say no, but the truth is most people figure out that saying certain things get them into trouble, and once in a while everyone lies, usually to protect themselves.

It is true that people with Asperger’s lack some of the skills needed to tell a good lie – body language, either consciously or subconsciously, may give it away. Or the tone of voice, or an inability to create a plausible story. I do admit to using the “Aspies Don’t Lie” concept in Asperger Sunset as a plot device, but it is pretty idealistic.

People with Asperger’s do, however, have a strong desire to follow rules. Anxiety and emotion create a chaotic world and rules sort things out. Children with Asperger’s often play meticulous games with their toys, lining them up and grouping them, keeping everything in order. Following the rules…

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October 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Summer of Sheldon

Yes, I’m seven seasons late to the beauty that is CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. The comedy won one of its lead characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a third Emmy this year in addition to his wins in 2010, 2011. Yet I’ve just discovered what a gift the show is to the community of people who have an interest in Asperger Syndrome. It is aspie cool to the nth degree.

sheldonActor Jim Parsons portrays Dr. Cooper, a gifted, gawky and genuinely lovable geek who exhibits some of the traits that can be associated with Asperger Syndrome: aloofness, inward focused, eidetic memory, discomfort in unfamiliar settings, the love of routine. The genius of the character and his place in the show is that he has a strong social group of peers who help him navigate the tricky world of interpersonal relationships. Oh that such social groups were the norm, not the exception.

Finding the right social group, one that you not only fit into but that makes you a better person, a higher achiever and moves you ever further toward self-actualization is sometimes an elusive goal for the person with an Asperger diagnosis. One-on-one relationships often can be easier than navigating group situations. Yet depending on one person for the bulk of your social activities can be limiting and disappointing, especially if schedules don’t mesh and opportunities to get together are minimum. That’s true even for people not on the spectrum and those who have no trouble meeting and connecting with new people.

A number of groups have sprung up to help anybody and everybody make social connections. Several are geared to young adults. is a great starting place to find an affinity group. Perhaps you love anime or videogames or cycling or outdoor adventures. Whatever your taste, there seems to be a Meetup to suit it. There’s even a specific Asperger group Meetup. Just go to the website, put in your Zip Code and you can find a group that gathers near you. Beyond that, churches, community groups, workplaces and the pages of your local newspaper or favorite local news website often provide information about activities and social groups that might appeal to you.

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Asperger's, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Autism, Asperger Syndrome soaring

Asperger Syndrome is on the rise. At least that’s the implication of the latest research that finds autism is nearly twice as common as previously reported. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 1 in 88 children in the U.S. have autism — approximately one million children and teens. That’s up from 1 in 110 children in a 2006 study. Why the increase? The answer is inconclusive. It could be that better screening and diagnosis accounts for the findings. But there could also be overdiagnosis at play. What is clear, though, is that little progress has been made in the treatment for AS and autism and much more education and assistance is needed.

The plan by the American Psychiatric Association to soon redefine autism in the DSM could further cloudy the CDC’s findings. Click here to read the CDC report.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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