Teens & Adults

Developing an individualised program to address a teen or adult’s difficulties will benefit their quality of life, no matter what their initial level of functioning. Of course, the results will be different for different people. Those who are more able may learn to understand themselves better, as well as discover how they can improve their relationships with others through friendships, work and community life. Those who are more impacted by ASD or co-occurring conditions may develop a stronger connection with others and be able to interact more freely.

Six reasons why adults on the Spectrum can struggle

Adapted from an RDI Parent Workshop, Dr Steve Gutstein

Cognitive inflexibility

  • They generally use black and white thinking. As a result, they see something as either right or wrong, good or bad, no in-betweens, no middle ground, no shades of grey. This also leads to negative emotions such as disappointment, anger and anxiety.
  • They can be perfectionist, having difficulty recognising when something is good-enough.
  • They may have difficulty adapting as rapidly as circumstances warrant.
  • Negotiation and compromise are typically a challenge

Poor executive functioning

  • Learning from experiences, positive or negative, is not automatic so they may continue to make the same mistakes or fail to appreciate their own value.
  • They tend to show poor anticipation and preparation for potential outcomes.
  • They may not understand Murphy’s Law – that anything that can go wrong will go wrong – so unexpected outcomes are catastrophic for them

Fear of Uncertainty

  • They can have difficulty gathering the motivation to expand into unknown or uncertain areas.
  • They may be inclined to attempt to control novel situations to reduce their uncertainty.

Damaging consequences of autism

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sense of self as helpless and inadequate
  • Little perseverance and resilience
  • Increasingly idiosyncratic thinking patterns
  • Breakdown of relationships or extreme felt pressure

Disordered emotional development

  • Don’t monitor subtle emotional changes
  • Don’t know how to connect emotional reactions to specific precipitants
  • Don’t develop effective coping strategies

Lack of participation in the non-rule- governed ‘dynamic’ social systems

  • Inability to use others’ emotional reactions as a reference point
  • Difficulty functioning in settings where sharing and integrating new information is the goal
  • Unable to understand others’ needs if different from one’s own.

Employment Issues for High Functioning Teens and Adults

Relationship Development Intervention can make a tangible difference in quality of life for high functioning adults and teens with autism by increasing their employability skills.

There is substantial reason to believe that cognitively higher functioning teens and adults can learn a wide range of sophisticated skills. However, significant obstacles are found when the individual tries to apply these learned skills in real-world, complex, dynamic settings, or when skills must be modified or adapted “on-the- fly” to meet circumstances that were not covered in the training curriculum.

The problem, then, is not learning specific skills per se, but their application in a more dynamic manner, to progressively more complex, “messy”, unpredictable real-world problems and settings. This real life application is incorporated into the Relationship Development Intervention Program’s Dynamic Intelligence curriculum.

Some employability skills your RDI Consultant can assist with:


  • Assessing needs and identifying problems
  • Seeking different points of view and evaluating them.
  • Recognising the human, interpersonal, technical, scientific, and mathematical dimensions of a problem
  • Being creative and innovative in exploring possible solutions.
  • Checking to see if solutions work
  • Acting on opportunities for improvement


  • Working independently, or as a part of a team
  • Carrying out multiple tasks or projects in a prioritised way
  • Being innovative and resourceful in identifying and suggesting alternative ways to achieve goals and get the job done
  • Remaining open and responding constructively to change
  • Learning from mistakes and accepting feedback
  • Coping with uncertainty


  • Understanding and working within the dynamics of a group
  • Being flexible and respectful, open to and supportive of others’ thoughts, opinions, and contributions
  • Recognising and respecting people’s diversity, differences, and perspectives
  • Accepting and providing feedback in a constructive and considerate manner
  • Recognising, managing and resolving conflict in a productive manner

Planning and monitoring

  • Developing plans
  • Seeking feedback, along with testing, revising, and implementing plans
  • Working to potentially change quality standards and specifications
  • Selecting and using appropriate tools and technology for the specific task or project and “making do” with resources that are available
  • Adapting to changing requirements and information
  • Continuously monitoring the success of a project and identifying ways to improve
  • Need for a different learning methodology

Dynamic Intelligence

  • Monitoring self, others and social situations accurately
  • Taking a broader perspective and reflecting on experiences
  • Planning for future experiences
  • Co-ordinating emotions and interaction with others effectively
  • Evaluating self and performance
  • Solving problems in a flexible way
  • Using lateral thinking