April 23, 2015 9:19 pm
Updated: April 23, 2015 11:23 pm

Calgary program helps young adults with autism make friends


CALGARY – Braeden Krulicki loves to play games with friends. You can usually find him at Myth Games in northeast Calgary, but spending hours conversing with friends isn’t something that comes easily for the 23-year-old. As a young adult on the autism spectrum, Krulicki says social situations can be challenging.

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“I’ve always had this big problem through my tenure (at University) feeling disconnected from everyone else. I had a good opportunity to talk to people while waiting for classes, but I didn’t really connect with anyone outside the classroom.”

Last year, Krulicki enrolled in the PEERS program for young adults at the Ability Hub. PEERS, which stands for Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills was developed at UCLA to help young people master the skills they need to make and maintain relationships.

“We help them with skills such as trading information, identifying common interests and why those are the basic foundations to establishing social relationships,” says Michael Barrett, a registered psychologist with the Ability Hub.

The 16 week program is offered to young adults age 18-28. Each week participants learn how to do things like make a phone call, host a small party or even how to date.

A similar program is also offered for adolescents age 13 to 17. So far, Barrett says feedback from participants’ parents has been positive.

“They say that they noticed their child was taking a lot more risks, putting themselves out there and getting involved a bit more in community activities.”

Currently, Calgary is the only Canadian centre offering the PEERS program. So far 20 young adults have been through the program and researchers at the Univeristy of Calgary are interested in learning more about its impact on participants over time.

“We really want them to use these skills not just during the sessions, but out in the community. Building friendships is a lifelong journey, so hopefully this is helping them do that throughout their life,” explains Marian Coret, a masters student and researcher with the U of C.

So far 20 young adults have completed the Peers program. The Ability Hub is currently accepting applications for its fall session.

For more information visit the Ability Hub’s website.

This article is not written or edited by Global News. The author is solely responsible for the content. © Heather Yourex-West, 2015

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