Preparing for When the Bus Stops Coming

I am so grateful to the Autism Connection of Pennsylvania for including “Preparing for When the Bus Stops Coming” in their Spring 2018 Newsletter! A full and unedited version of this article, including some personal content that shares a touch more of more of my “why” (along with a powerful photo) and a bit more about the curriculum I promote in my role at Wesley Family Services is being shared this evening on my blog. I am truly blessed to serve in a role that allows me to continue to contribute to creating and encouraging positive change in our community to transform lives. 

There is incredible content throughout the newsletter, including the importance of donating locally and not jumping to national charities (and if you know me well, you know exactly who I am referring to and why) without doing your homework. Don’t miss your chance to read about their exciting happenings. The women at Autism Connection of PA never cease to motivate and inspire me. Read their news, drop them a line … and hey, a few well-deserved dollars if you are so inclined. Their work needs to continue. 

Without further adieu, I give to you …

Preparing for When the Bus Stops Coming:
A Need for Curriculum for Teaching Hygiene, Sexuality and Healthy Social Relationships to Individuals with Autism

As a mother to a 20 year old on the autism spectrum and a professional blessed to support this community for over 15 years, I am anxious to share knowledge, advice and a valuable curriculum that can empower caregivers, educators, clinicians and self-advocates. The picture shared above is a photo snapped the day my son graduated from high school. Ecstatic that he achieved high honors and was preparing for a post-secondary program, I was also petrified that he wasn’t ready in every way for what was to come.

After all, though in the evening ahead he would walk in his cap and gown, this was also the day that the bus stopped coming.

After attending both a community college campus for a shortened semester and vocational program last spring that didn’t meet his needs nor his preferences, my son now works part time as a cashier. He still struggles with valuing self-care, understanding the changes his body has moved through during adolescence, and effective social interaction. These are struggles commonly faced by people with autism. We can overcome them, together.

Wesley K-8 and High Schools (part of Wesley Family Services) in collaboration with Dr. Lawrence Sutton, a Pittsburgh psychologist who has focused decades of practice developing social, vocational, and relationship supports for individuals with autism, intellectual disabilities and emotional disturbance developed a curriculum in 2015 to address these critical issues.

The Healthy Relationships Curriculum engages students and young adults through 37 lessons accompanied by over 35 videos (soon to be over 50 thanks to recent grant funding awarded to our team) across three units. Progress is measured by pre and post testing, and visual aids along with home supplements for families accompany the lesson binder for facilitators and its video portal.

By preparing adolescents and young adults with disabilities to practice effective hygiene and self-care, understand the human body’s physical and emotional changes during their transition years and initiate and maintain healthy social relationships across multiple domains to promote generalization, we can set them up for success in post-secondary learning institutions, vocational environments, and ultimately independent living settings.

There is deep value in introducing such lessons at an early age to build upon skills each year. It is essential for truly any young adult to be armed with information to pursue and sustain healthy – and safe – relationships to thrive in adulthood, but individuals with autism especially so in order to grow into strong self-advocates. Individuals like my son need – and deserve – to absorb and use this information to promote autonomy but also to prevent victimization and/or crime.

Each member of our team has first-hand experience or knowledge that has led to the creation, implementation, and expansion of the Healthy Relationships Curriculum. To request a packet with sample lessons, ask a general question or schedule a meeting with our team, visit and click “Contact” in the upper right corner.

Author: Catherine Hughes

Passionate Advocate. Innovative Storyteller. Engaging Strategist. Author. Editor. Blogger.

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