Jamie Altshule, Los Angeles educational consultant, discusses the Higher Road coaching program, a life skills approach to supporting students with learning needs such as autism and learning disabilities.
Today’s adolescents, teens and young adults lead complicated, demanding lives and this is doubly true for those with special needs. Every teen struggles to manage their relationships with their friends and family and to organize their lives.
For teens with special needs, these challenges can often be compounded by a degree of social awkwardness, anger control, and heightened levels of anxiety. Adolescents with special needs often require help in managing their level of stress, staying healthy, and bringing order to their lives.
Many teens with special needs – those that have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum or have other types of learning issues, for example – have greatly profited from programs offered through schools, therapists and in treatment facilities. These programs have empowered them to overcome many obstacles.
However, these services are typically provided in facilities separate from most teens’ homes, and there can be challenges for teens in applying these lessons in their daily lives.
Integrating practical skills with therapeutic efforts is critical. The Higher Road coaching program was designed to give teens and their families a hands-on curriculum for navigating around the hurdles they encounter, and practical skills for overcoming these challenges by creating effective habits.
As an example, teens on the autistic spectrum can have trouble picking up on normal social cues and maintaining social relationships; consequently, they often profit from specific lessons in how close to stand to someone and how to modulate their voice during a conversation. Similarly, lessons in making eye contact, being an active listener, shaking hands, and reading body language are critical for teens to help them form relationships with others.
Teens on the spectrum who have difficulty reading the emotional reactions of others are often oblivious to how their own hygiene influences the manner in which they are perceived. It is helpful to assist a teen in taking inventory of their hygiene products and teaching them how to properly use them. This instruction can completely change the way teens are perceived and can greatly increase their confidence in social situations.
Managing stress is a huge issue for teens on the spectrum, as well as many other students with learning roadblocks, and many can feel overwhelmed by the workload they encounter in school. Simple, yet crucially needed supports such as designing the proper study area at home, cleaning out the useless and outdated papers from their backpacks, and filing past work and notes in an organized way can make a huge difference in helping kids find that calming space in the home.
For many parents of teens on the spectrum, oppositional behavior in the home is a huge issue. However many teens simply do not know the difference between disagreeing and arguing. They need to learn how to express a different viewpoint without the situation deteriorating into a heated confrontation. Simple steps such as cooling off periods and understanding how to develop a well-articulated viewpoint can be valuable tools for parents and their children.
Because each Higher Road coach works with students in their home, they can focus on and support teens actual lives, and can work on solutions and interventions that are directly relevant to each teenager. Although the work focuses on the client, observing home life adds insight and direction to the coaching process and enlists the family in the child’s development, strengthening the entire family unit.
It is important to distinguish between these types of practical interventions and traditional psychotherapy or counseling. The Higher Road coaching program is an educationally based program offering practical tools and techniques to help teens become more aware, organized and thoughtful in tackling the myriad of burdens that they encounter every day.
Therapy plays a valuable role for many teens as they learn to explore their own feelings, and this helps them empathize with others. These types of practical interventions in the home are designed to work with therapy, not to replace it.
Parents often struggle to find services that offer at-home practical interventions that help teens with special needs master the challenges of forming solid relationships, maximizing their motivation, and staying healthy. The Higher Road coaching program was developed to meet this need. The Higher Road coaches come to teens’ homes to support them in their everyday environment.
The Higher Road coaches work with their clients on a curriculum that focuses on six skill sets with specific objectives and lessons for improving teens’ abilities. These areas are a great fit for children with special needs. The courses include:
- Tapping into Motivation
- Improving Organizational Management
- Working Through Oppositional Behavior
- Health and Wellness
- Managing Stress
- Developing Social Skills
The Higher Road Coaches are energetic personable individuals who have educational and clinical experience to meet the diverse needs of their teens and families. All have either a Masters Degree in Social Work or are Licensed Clinical Social Workers, who have an affinity for connecting with students, and extensive training with The Higher Road curriculum. Most importantly, Higher Road life coaches put their heart and soul into their work; their passion and expertise make a real difference in the lives of teens and their families.
You can find out more information about the Higher Road coaching program at their website:
To contact the program developers by email:
Higher Road coaching program developers:
Jamie Altshule, educational consultant: is the founder of Academic Success, Inc., and is a veteran High School and Middle School English teacher, private academic coach, home school teacher and curriculum advisor.
Dani Levine, Ph.D.: is a Licensed Psychologist and Educational Consultant with 15 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. She is the founder of The S.T.E.P. Group
Eric Altshule is a partner and operations manager in Academic Success. Before that he spent a decade working on Capitol Hill in Washington DC focusing on educational policy and then another decade working in international trade in the private sector.
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