Our Treatment Team’s Approach Using the Autonomy Development Model

Home autism Our Treatment Team’s Approach Using the Autonomy Development Model

Teens with autism struggle with becoming more independent and making decisions on their own. They are more likely to reject help and act impulsively or self-destructively or rely on caretakers to continue to meet their needs. Neither of these paths are effective in helping teens with autism live healthy, independent, and productive lives. While it is hard for families to shift their role as their teen grows up, becoming more independent is a process. Using an autonomy development model, we work with families to help their child become more independent, learn social skills, and find the motivation to succeed one step at a time.

What is autonomy?

Autonomy refers to making independent decisions regarding managing emotions, resolving conflict, and making personal goals. According to Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, autonomy is the opposite of experiencing shame and self-doubt about one’s ability to make positive, healthy choices. It answers the question: can I do things myself or am I reliant on the help of others?

Although many teens with autism struggle with social skills, understanding the bigger picture, and executive functioning skills related to planning ahead and staying organized, we believe that every teen has unique strengths and needs. With the right level of support, they are prepared to make more independent informed decisions and move from relying on caretakers to using others as a resource.

Stages of the Autonomy Development Model:


  • Caretaker: Most students who come to New Focus Academy struggle with unhealthy behaviors and knowing how to understand utilize help offered to them. Our treatment team takes on the role of caretakers by providing immediate feedback and support.
  • Awareness: Through interviews and initial assessments, we help identify areas students need to work on and strengths they have that will prepare them to take on these challenges.
  • Targeting: After we have created a personalized treatment plan for each student, we encourage them to play an active role in creating personal goals and help them find the motivation to achieve them.
  • Guide: As students demonstrate the ability to set goals and make decisions for themselves, the treatment team takes a step back. They are there to offer support and give feedback, but they also encourage students to learn from experiences and recognize the consequences of their actions. They learn from experimenting and practicing to adapt emotionally and socially to daily life.
  • Strategies: We work closely with students to identify which strategies will best support them as they overcome challenges.
  • Implement: Students practice relational and emotional regulation skills they’ve learned and apply them to situations they experience as staff continue evaluate how to best support them.
  • Resources: As students make more of their decisions and practice autonomy, the treatment team focuses on providing them with the resources necessary to help them live independently and ensuring that they continue to have the support they need once they transition home.
  • Fluent: The more autonomy students gain, they develop improved social-emotional fluency that will help them navigate future challenges.


New Focus Academy Can Help 

New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders. The program utilizes a strengths-based approach and positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence. The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction with peers and their families, better organizational skills, and to improve their self-management skills. Students have a variety of engaging opportunities to gain the confidence they need to foster and maintain healthy relationships and lifestyle habits. We can help your family today!

Contact us at (844) 313-6749 to learn more about how we encourage teens to become more independent.

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