Sue Scheff: Teens Helping Teens with Special Needs through Circle of Friends

Teenagers can have a difficult time with today’s peer pressure. Keeping up with the trendy fashion, hair styles, tech gadgets and hanging with the cool group is all part of being a teen in high school today. However when it comes to teens with special needs, having a friend is one of the hardest parts of going to high school.

Circle of Friends
is making strides of changes and bring light into some very dark and lonely lives of teens. Circle of Friends is a social skills programs for teens and adults with disabilities such as autism, through understanding, acceptance, friendship and inclusion. They go into local high schools, teens are inspiring lives. They provide valuable support and friendship to those with disabilities. Teens and adults that were once isolated and lonely with their disability are now experiencing living through Circle of Friends. From a simple phone call, to going out to eat, Circle of Friends is providing a sense of normalcy to people with disabilities.

Special events are planned such as dances and organized outings to the movies, restaurants and shopping help these disabled people learn better social skills and enhances their communication skills with others. Circle of Friends helps make dreams come true for these otherwise isolated teens and adults with disabilities.

A priceless gift that Circle of Friends creates is the gift of giving. Teens that take part in Circle of Friends are influenced by bringing an awareness of understanding and acceptance to those that have disabilities. It is true, it just feels good to give!

Encourage your school and community to open a local chapter today. Read Ella’s story. Learn more, click hereRead more.

In Jacksonville (North Florida area) Autism Speaks has many chapters.  Click here for the locations and contact information. Empowering adults with Autism through art with Art Possibilities, learn more.

Watch video and be inspired to start your own chapter today! Read more.


Sue Scheff: Parents Helping Parents

autismawarenessAs with my organization, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, I created it to help other parents that are struggling with today’s teens.  After going through a difficult time with my own teenage daughter, I made some major mistakes, however I wanted others to learn from my mistakes: more important – gain from my knowledge.  I firmly believe that parents helping parents and parents learning from other parents firsthand – can be priceless!

Rhonda Spellman  is a proud mother of a beautiful son – who happens to have autism.  She has made it her mission in life to share with other parents and expanded her information into wonderful children’s books.

Here are some of her parenting tips and please take a moment to visit her website.

Quick tips: 9 Keys of Parenting

  • Children with Asperger’s Syndrome benefit from an environment that helps to build upon their strengths and builds their confidence and self esteem. What interests them? Help them to gain greater knowledge about their areas of abilities and interest. This helps to build their confidence.


  • To help them develop their social skills it is a good idea to talk with them frequently, inquiring how they feel about certain situations. Vary their exposure to a wide range of experiences. Observe their reaction to each and talk about their feelings.


  • Was the trip at the park better than the trip to the mountains? Why? What made one better or worse than the other? Try to avoid large crowds, too much noise and too many sensory impulses at one time. People with Asperger’s Syndrome are simply unable to assimilate too many variables at one time and you are setting them up for a ‘meltdown.’


  • It helps a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to broaden their interests and topics of conversation. Try introducing something new and different, in small steps and in small time slots. For example, visit a new location that offers a perspective that may enhance an ability they already possess. Go to a new planetarium if astronomy is “their thing.” Different settings can help them to learn what is and what isn’t socially appropriate.


  • Keep in mind that it is a critical element to ensure that they are in a safe, supportive, and strength-based group setting. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome unfortunately tend to act out inappropriately and become targets for bullies.


  • Because children with Asperger’s Syndrome are already fearful or otherwise resistant to socially interact with others it is paramount to begin working on their social skills as early as possible. They already have difficulty communicating with others and are often excluded in their schools by their peers because they appear “different” or “weird.” Involving them in small group settings in a familiar environment not only exposes them to “accepted” behaviors but it also gives them a feeling of acceptance among their peers.


  • *At my house we often have as many as 11 extra neighborhood children playing in the backyard with my two boys. My almost eight-year-old son has Asperger’s Syndrome. My just turned six-year-old son does not. They both are involved with the play at times. Sometimes my older son is an observer… and that’s okay. Sometimes he prefers to just play in the sandbox or paint with sidewalk chalk. *He gets the chalk wet and “paints” wonderful pictures.

 I make popsicles by the dozen and the children take turns passing them out. I am firm on fairness and each knows the unwritten rule that no one is ever left out. Yes, the extra children can be exhausting… yes, the extra children can make a mess… yes, making the popsicles takes some time and it costs me a few extra dollars… Can I afford the extra time and effort? The way I see it: The interaction for my son is therapy I can’t afford NOT to do!


  • A child with Asperger’s self esteem is greatly enhanced when they are given opportunities to participate with and / or help others. Allowing them to pitch in and help with chores and to have responsibilities is a great start. Making sure that they are recognized and rewarded is the second step. Watching them grow into happy, stable and productive people is the always the goal.

I learn from my very different boys every day. I aim to teach them to love and accept those differences, in each other and in all others, every day.