Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Wilderness Therapy

The video above includes a testimonial from one of our former students with ASD who expressed how Redcliff Ascent’s wilderness program helped him.

RedCliff Ascent, an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) program for teens and young adults, serves many different populations and diagnosis. The following article will highlight Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and how we effectively help these clients.

A recent study by the CDC shows that Autism Spectrum Disorder is now affecting one in every 68 children, a staggering number. What exactly is ASD? A brief definition reads “the persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts. It includes restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities…”

ASD includes a vast range of symptoms spanning from low-functioning individuals, who struggle to communicate and need assistance with daily life skills to high functioning with little to no assistance needed.

Dr. Temple Grandin is an example of a person diagnosed with ASD who has excelled in her chosen field of study and has demonstrated a much-respected level of resilience. She is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a world-renowned autism spokesperson and functions as a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She recently published an article noting that these higher functioning individuals are considered to have what used to be called Aspergers. The Aspergers diagnosis is no longer recognized in the medical and mental health fields. However, many who are diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder do not believe their diagnosis to be a disability. They truly look at it as a gift.

At RedCliff Ascent we look at all of our students through a strength-based lens whether a teen is blessed or challenged with ASD, or any other developmental diagnosis. Often, what we see in the wilderness are teens that see themselves differently than their peers and family members. They tend to struggle deeply with their own identity. Being different from the perceived norm can make life a challenge, especially in the difficult moments that form one’s teenage years.

If your child is in need of direction in their life and you have the suspicion they may be on the Autism Spectrum, there are many advantages to being in a wilderness program. The ability to remove them from daily distractions also opens opportunities that allow them to focus on more formalized testing that will better yield a diagnosis.

Why come to RedCliff Ascent to help your child with ASD? At RedCliff, your son or daughter will be challenged with figuring out how to accept and internalize that having ASD does not define who they are as a person. They will learn to be resilient and manage the frustrating aspects of ASD at an age-appropriate level. They will benefit greatly from learning alongside their peers and staff the lifelong principles of; healthy emotions, respect, boundaries, gratitude and so much more. RedCliff Ascent provides a highly structured environment that allows students to have success, create a sense of self and discover their own strengths.

About the author – Kim Burnett graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor degree in Outdoor Leadership and Community Health. After some time working at RedCliff as a field guide, she returned to school and received her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Utah. She gained her love for wilderness therapy while working for Redcliff Ascent. She has worked in several wilderness therapy programs, residential programs, hospital inpatient therapy, interim drug treatment groups, DBT Clinic, foster care and children of military personnel. Kim also has 5 years of experience working with people with disabilities, including Autism.