SUWS of the Carolinas is a therapeutic wilderness program that focuses on short-term, high-impact clinical intervention and assessment for adolescents, both male and female, ages 10 to 17, who are struggling with a range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and substance abuse issues. At SUWS of the Carolinas we provide four different treatment programs (Approach, Phoenix Outdoor, Seasons, and SUWS), which are designed to meet the distinct needs of all of our students, including those who are battling social issues and/or who have received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.
The Approach program at SUWS of the Carolinas was created to help adolescents who are struggling with specific issues, such as autism spectrum disorder and the many side effects that accompany this condition. The overall goal of the Approach program is to provide each student with the utmost clinical care, using wilderness as a vessel for quality therapy. Our highly qualified staff focuses on creating a socially nurturing environment as well as providing each student with structure that encourages consistency and predictability.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by a persistent impairment in communication and social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Present from early childhood, the symptoms of ASD can limit or greatly impair a young person’s ability to function properly on a daily basis. Furthermore, many children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder also present with intellectual impairment and/ or language deficiencies.
While autism spectrum disorder has no cure, intensive treatment that is implemented as soon as possible can do wonders in the lives of many young people. At SUWS of the Carolinas, we have an exceptional staff that has had years of experience in treating children and adolescents that have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We can help your child face issues head on and emerge from our program a happier, healthier individual.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member with the Treatment Process
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, it likely a very uneasy time, filled with fear or worry, as you are trying to come to terms with the diagnosis and figure out how you are going to best help your child. However, try not to get discouraged because there are many things that a parent can do to help a child with autism spectrum disorder overcome their presenting challenges. Below are some tips to keep in mind that may be helpful when trying to get your child the help that he or she needs:
- Seek treatment right away. Early intervention is the best way to help speed up your child’s development and help control some of the symptoms of ASD. With proper treatment, the higher the chance for more successful treatment.
- Learn all that you can about autism spectrum disorder. If you have a better understanding of ASD you will be better equipped to help your child work through his or her difficulties.
- Be consistent. Since children with autism spectrum disorder tend to have a hard time adapting or coping with change, sticking to a regular schedule can help your child thrive.
- Create a personalized treatment plan. Work closely with your child’s treatment team to put together a treatment plan that will best address your child’s specific issues. No two children with ASD are alike and as such treatment plans should be tailored to individual needs.
- Be an active part of your child’s treatment process, making sure to attend family therapy and any available workshops.
- Find help and support for yourself. Raising a child with autism spectrum disorder can be difficult and exhausting. Try to establish a support network that you can turn to during particularly stressful times so that you do not become too overwhelmed.
Why Consider Treatment at SUWS of the Carolinas
Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder often face multiple difficulties on a daily basis and tend to have problems that affect crucial areas of development. The lack of communication and social abilities associated with ASD may interfere with a young person’s ability to learn and interact with their peers. In turn, this can lead to scholastic difficulties and the inability to establish and maintain relationships with peers. These young people typically require a structured routine and any disruption to such routines can cause a significant amount of distress. General lack of adaptive skills combined with difficulties in planning, organization, and inability to cope with change will not only interfere with academic achievement, but can also cause a young person to be unable to establish independence in adulthood.
Types of Treatment Offered at SUWS of the Carolinas
Our Approach Program, is specifically designed for adolescent, ages 14 to 17, who are struggling with the challenges associated with autism spectrum disorder. The Approach Program at SUWS places a strong focus on addressing specific needs of this unique population, including difficulties with social skills, self-regulation, executive functioning, and self-direction. The wonderful staff at Approach utilizes a number of different treatment strategies to assist each student and their families meet their personal goals. Additionally, the treatment curriculum offered at SUWS of the Carolinas is designed to support the growth of each student and is based on a level system. Each level carries a specific intention, measurable objectives, and can be individualized for each student’s needs.
The Approach Program will begin at our base camp, where students will first meet their therapist and get acquainted with their cabin before heading out on their first wilderness expedition. Throughout the duration of the program each student will regularly go on multi-day hiking expeditions, while also continuing to participate in a number of therapeutic treatment methods. Some of the different therapeutic experiences we offer students in the Approach Program, which are designed to strengthen their minds, bodies, and souls, include:
Medication management: When it comes to autism spectrum disorder, there is no specific medication that is able to treat the core symptoms. However, some types of medication may be able to help a young person with this condition function better on a daily basis. If your child is struggling with a co-occurring disorder, he or she may be prescribed medication to control the presence of any distressing symptoms. All medication used will be a joint decision between you and your child’s psychiatrist, with whom your child will meet on an as-needed basis. Our psychiatrist is available to meet with students at base camp every other week in the fall, winter, and spring, and every week in the summer. Additionally, we have a registered nurse on staff and all of our field staff are trained in medication administration.
Individual therapy: Each student in our Approach Program receives individual counseling sessions, up to two times a week, where they will meet one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional. Individual therapy can help children and adolescents with ASD learn more positive behaviors and learn how to reduce the prevalence of undesirable behaviors.
Group therapy: Group therapy in the Approach Program at SUWS of the Carolinas uses concrete approaches and is strongly focused on social skills development. Some possible group topics may include communication skills, self-awareness, hygiene, and self-care.
Family therapy: Throughout the duration of a student’s stay at SUWS, parents will participate in weekly calls with a therapist who will update them on their child’s progress and treatment status. Because we firmly believe that family members should also be making positive changes in their lives, we also provide a two-day family workshop for parents, which is designed to foster awareness of their own behaviors. We also offer a 10-week series of webinar classes where parents can learn more about wilderness therapy, autism, and the treatment process.
Experiential therapy: In addition to traditional therapeutic methods, SUWS of the Carolinas offers a number of experiential therapies to provide our students with well-rounded recovery. Some of the therapies offered to our students include:
- Therapy certified dogs
- Challenge course
- Equine therapy
- Cooking healthy meals
- Expressive arts
- Ropes course
- Trap building
- Quartz striking
- Bow drilling
- Equine therapy
Continuing Care and Levels of Treatment
Upon completion of the Approach Program here at SUWS of the Carolinas, each student will participate in a three day graduation process, where students and their families will reunite to participate in final closing sessions before returning home. During the graduation process parents will spend a night in the wilderness with their child, where they will begin establishing new behavior patterns while still under the supervision of the Approach Program staff. On the last day of graduation, a ceremony honoring the accomplishments of each graduate, will be held prior to their departure.
As part of the treatment process at SUWS of the Carolinas, we provide each student and his or her family with transitional planning to help determine the most appropriate placement upon graduation from our program. SUWS therapists will coordinate aftercare planning with parents, referring professionals, and the family transition specialist as needed. Our therapists and other mental health professionals work diligently to make the transition to the next phase of treatment is as smooth as possible.
Approach is a unique program at SUWS of the Carolinas, and is dedicated to helping adolescents overcome behavioral issues that interfere with their emotional and psychological growth. Our highly recommended wilderness program will provide your child with life-changing treatment, allowing for a happier and healthier future.