There is considerable research that documents disparities in services for children with ASD from low income and ethnic minority backgrounds. These disparities are amplified as youth with ASD transition from school-based to adult services.
Successful adult transition planning is critical for youth with disabilities as they leave the structured school environment and take their next steps. Despite the legal mandates and requirements for transition planning for adolescents with developmental disabilities, research has shown that there is a significant difference between the number of adolescents with the capability and desire to be actively engaged in work or within the community, and those who are actually employed or participating in a structured work program (Gerhardt, 2007). Furthermore, studies are beginning to uncover the importance of promoting self-determination and self-confidence by providing opportunities for adolescents to be engaged as leaders in their peer groups (Carter et al., 2013).
TEAM seeks to bridge the identified transition gap by increasing the skill set of diverse youth through their own leadership experiences.
The practice of mentoring has been recognized for centuries as an effective, relatively simple way to help youth develop skills, knowledge, confidence and motivation (Snowden, 2003). Research from well-known mentoring organizations reveals that mentoring can change the course of a young person's life, decrease substance abuse, and improve academic performance (Beier, Rosenfeld, Spitalny, Zansky, and Bontempo, 2000). For young people with disabilities, mentoring can impact many of the goals that are developed in a comprehensive transition plan, such as succeeding academically, understanding the adult world, developing career awareness, accepting support while taking responsibility, communicating effectively, overcoming barriers, and developing social skills (Rhodes et al., 2000).
TEAM helps youth with and without ASD cope with all of the aforementioned complex issues related to social development and build the skills necessary for successful transition to adulthood.
Research has shown that peer-mediated interventions cause participants to not only become more socially responsive, but also become better at reflecting on their own experiences (Rogers, 2000).
TEAM allows mentors and mentees to deepen their self-awareness, experience personal development and autonomy, and further their sense of empowerment. These skills will help them grow in their abilities to make friends, communicate with others, recognize non-verbal cues, and set and respect personal boundaries.
Through positive peer mentorship relationships and targeted goals to develop transition skills, TEAM participants will gain self-confidence, self-awareness, social skills, and leadership skills that will help them perform tasks in their daily lives relating to self-care, problem-solving, decision-making, social awareness, and other areas.