Dyslexia in Teens: The Ultimate Guide for Parents to Set Your Kid for Success

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Imagine if you were given the choice of having an intellectual superpower, but to gain this power, you would need to give up other things. For people who have dyslexia, it is not a choice but a reality. If you have a child who is dyslexic or are dyslexic yourself, you don’t need to think about it as a negative! This article will explain why that dyslexia in teens can be celebrated and provides a guide for parents to support their dyslexic child. Let me guide you in helping your child overcome challenges associated with dyslexia. More importantly, let me help you help them unlock their superpowers!

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The Dyslexic Gift

If you have a teenager with dyslexia, you know that there is much more to the diagnosis than trouble with reading or spelling. Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder or learning disability that impacts people’s understanding of language. Dyslexia is widespread, with some estimates stating that up to 15 to 20 percent of the population has the condition.

Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence! People who are dyslexic often have an above-average IQ. Though reading, spelling, and many other tasks are difficult for them, people who are dyslexic can still become skilled readers or writers. It just means that getting to that end requires a different path. This is true for most things when it comes to being a dyslexic person. Forging a path is the dyslexic way.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Unknown, often attributed to Albert Einstein

Signs of Dyslexia: A Developmental Progression

Dyslexia signs will often become apparent in elementary school when reading, writing, and math concepts are introduced. But as a parent of a dyslexic student you may have noticed signs of dyslexia in your child earlier. Every person with dyslexia is unique and has their own ways of coping. They will never fit the mold. There are, however, some general commonalities most dyslexic kids share:

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschool

Common signs a dyslexic student shows in preschool include:

  • Learning to talk late
  • Trouble following multi-step directions
  • Mispronounce words
  • Learning difficulty with letters, colors, or days of the week
  • Difficulty rhyming
    Difficulty sequencing sentences

These students might show interest and ability in activities like drawing, puzzles, and building models.

Typical Dyslexia Signs in Elementary School

  • Poor spelling
  • Avoids reading/poor reading skills
  • Trouble hearing individual sounds in words
  • Confusing similar letters
  • Struggling to read even when words are familiar
  • Substituting words when reading aloud
Struggles may peak again during middle school and high school when language, organizational skills, and planning are stressed. However, despite these struggles, you may recognize that your dyslexic teen excels in other areas.

The Science Behind Dyslexia

Most of the scientific information that follows was summarised from the book, The Dyslexic Advantage, written by Brock Eide, MD., MA, and Fernette Eide, MD. This book is a highly recommended read for anyone struggling with dyslexia or the parents of a dyslexic child. It is available in many formats.

When it comes to the cause of dyslexia, structural differences in the brain can be to blame for the language based learning disability.

These differences are not well understood, but researchers think they stem from early development when the brain forms functional networks. Unfortunately, these networks don’t develop in a “well-integrated way,” creating processing impairments.

These impairments generally manifest in difficulties processing language, specifically phonological awareness. It is particularly prominent in reading and writing. These impairments also mean that the brain is forced to adapt, leading to some unexpected advantages!

Dyslexic brains are different. They have broader neural connections. Research by Dr. Manuel Casanova suggests that dyslexic brain connectivity may predispose people to big picture or visionary thinking. These broad neural connections are why dyslexics’ facial recognition skills are usually above average, which requires many different parts of the brain to work together. Joining distant areas of the brain is what dyslexics do best. They can draw ideas from anything and anywhere and connect different concepts together.

For this reason, while dyslexia has its downsides, it isn’t all negative. Instead, dyslexia is more of a trade-off where people can take advantage of unique processing benefits on the one hand but might struggle with reading and writing on the other. Dyslexic people are not defective, but their brains are organized to display different kinds of strengths.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Dyslexia

Dyslexia goes far beyond trouble with spelling or reading. It is not just a reading disability like many people think. While people generally focus on the deficits associated with dyslexia, there are also areas where dyslexic people are more capable than the average person. In this way, dyslexia isn’t a positive or negative condition; it just means that someone might have different strengths and weaknesses.

Neuropsychological testing is not only helpful in diagnosing dyslexia but can explain your child’s unique set of advantages and disadvantages. These tests are hard to read and understand for the average person but can be very valuable. This is where asking for help interpreting the testing is essential so that you can understand your child’s needs.

When explaining testing results to your child, it is vital to show them that their strengths are more important than their weaknesses. If your child has issues with low self-esteem due to being in special classes, being asked to read out loud, or mixing up word pronunciations, then explaining the why behind the struggle can help them overcome those challenges. While someone with dyslexia might struggle with these tasks, they also have a big right brain that makes connections that others don’t. They are some of the best BIG picture thinkers out there.

Common Strengths that People with Dyslexia Often Display:

  • Understand the larger context behind an idea
  • Can make new, unusual, or distant connections
  • Inferential reasoning or ambiguity detection
  • Ability to recombine things in novel ways and a general inventiveness
  • Greater mindfulness during tasks that others might take for granted
  • Problem-solving
  • Spotting interesting associations and relationships
  • Recognizing similarities

Dyslexics store information like a mural or stained glass, connecting ideas like a spider web or hyperlinks. They are also exceptional at spatial reasoning. Researchers found that this skill is not compensation but rather an innate ability.

Common Challenges that People with Dyslexia Often Encounter:

While this article discusses how dyslexia does not need to be a cloud hanging over you, it is also important to be upfront and realistic about some of the disadvantages of being dyslexic. While there are ways to mitigate many of these disadvantages, awareness is the first step in overcoming them.

Phonological Impairment

A phonological impairment is a deficit in the understanding of written language in its complete form. People with a phonological impairment struggle to break down language into smaller parts, which leads to the reading and spelling issues typical of a person who has dyslexia. Some dyslexics process in non-verbal ways and have a hard time putting things into words. As a result, there’s often a gap in understanding concepts and demonstrating that understanding in words. This is important for parents, teachers, and future employers to understand because nonverbal reasoning is valid. It can even be the key to creative insights. These individuals may struggle with tasks tied to language and phonological awareness but can often express themselves better with a drawing, diagram, or other forms of representation.

Procedural Learning and Procedural Memory

Procedural learning and memory have to do with learning how to do something through practice in a way that eventually becomes automatic. This is the “practice makes perfect” type of learning. Unfortunately, it is common for a dyslexic teenager or adult to struggle with procedural learning and memory.

Sadly, academics are often rooted in procedural learning and memory. This includes breaking down works, spelling, recognizing rhymes, sentence organization, and social pragmatics associated with words. Someone who is dyslexic does not often learn these types of things automatically with practice. Instead, they must use conscious compensation. That is a combination of focused attention and active working memory. This compensation works, but if the task is too complex, the working memory is overloaded because they have to actively think through all the tasks. Someone who is dyslexic will likely do better when rules and procedures are broken down into small steps. This makes them easier to master and demonstrate clearly.

Working Memory Overload

A key difficulty that comes with dyslexia is working memory overload. Basically, when someone is forced to actively focus on too many things, the dyslexic brain can struggle to keep up, leading to errors. Someone struggling with working memory overload often requires more repetitions than others to master a task or might take more time to reach the same level of mastery.

Also, someone who is dyslexic might forget skills that they have mastered more quickly if they do not practice them. So when a kid comes back to school after the summer, they might seem to forget more of what they learned the previous year.

Executive Functioning Struggles

Some people with dyslexia struggle with certain areas of executive functioning. This is caused by dysfunction in the cerebellum. This part of the brain plays a key role in things that become automatic with practice – like movement, speech, language, working memory/attention. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of being dyslexic! It feels like you have to work so much harder than everyone else. This can be discouraging. Another area of executive functioning that can be hard for a dyslexic teenager is transitions. They may have to develop new strategies to get around this when coursework changes… like the first semester of college. While executive functioning struggles can include a variety of different things, they can generally be mitigated through various strategies. It really just depends upon what works for each individual.

Finally, other areas that dyslexic people tend to struggle include; poor motor coordination, low muscle tone, difficulty with time awareness, timing, sequencing, and pacing.

Other Common Disadvantages Associated with Dyslexia

Teens with dyslexia often struggle with:

  • Language problems
  • Late talking
  • Mixing up words
  • Making up new words
  • Low working memory / Slow at retrieving words from memory
  • Mastering grammatical rules
  • Reading/spelling
  • Math
  • Slow processing speed
  • Mishearing words
  • Impaired motor coordination
  • Difficulty hearing with background noise
  • Following directions & procedures
  • Keeping information to themselves
  • Planning and organizing
  • Error detection
  • Time awareness
  • Spacing
  • Sequencing, focus, and attention
  • Understanding how words work together in groups.
  • Two-dimensional spatial reasoning – symbol reversal while reading, struggles with symbols in general.

Myths About Dyslexia

There are many misconceptions about dyslexia. One of the most common myths is that it means that you aren’t intelligent. In fact, most people with dyslexia have above-average intelligence. Another common myth is that every child who mixes up their letters when writing is dyslexic. Mixing up letters is actually very common in childhood and does not necessarily indicate dyslexia. A third misconception is that dyslexia means the same thing for everyone. Dyslexia is a complex condition that impacts each individual differently. No two people experience dyslexia precisely the same, but there are patterns that people tend to follow.

Subtypes of Dyslexia

There are many theories about different subtypes of dyslexia or even confusion between diagnoses with a similar name, like dyscalculia. When you break it down, it comes down to strengths and weaknesses once again. When doing neuropsychological testing on children with dyslexia, researchers see some common patterns. This also reinforces that each person with dyslexia is unique and will have unique strengths and struggles.

The most common way to categorized dyslexia is by type of deficit. The research shows that there are three clusters of deficits associated with dyslexia. These clusters can be seen as sub-types.

Phonological Processing Deficit

A phonological processing deficit is the most common type of dyslexia. Phonetic impairment is found in 80-90 % of cases. This deficit impacts decoding abilities and sounding out words. Sometimes this type of deficit is referred to as dysphonetic dyslexia or auditory dyslexia.

People with a phonological processing deficit will have difficulty

  • Analyzing and manipulating sounds
  • Understanding the rules of phonics
  • Sound segmentation
  • Sound discrimination

Rapid Naming Deficit

People with a rapid naming deficit have normal phonological processing, but they struggle to retrieve language-based information. This is most commonly associated with problems with word recall or the “on the tip of their tongue” type experience.

With this deficit, working memory is limited and can cause issues with attention. This is one reason why many dyslexic students are diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. Structural differences in the brain again can be to blame. This difference is not well understood, but researchers guess it stems from early development when the brain forms functional networks. Unfortunately, these networks don’t develop in a “well-integrated way” and create processing impairments.

Play Video about Why ADHD & Dyslexia sometimes go hand-in-hand | Aspiro Wilderness Therapy Program for Teens

Double Deficit Dyslexia

As the name suggests, double deficit dyslexia occurs when someone has both a phonological and a rapid naming deficit. This sub-type combines the phonological and rapid naming sub-types and is the least common.

Common difficulties associated with all types of dyslexia include:

  • Problems with finger coordination for handwriting
  • Difficulties with eye movement control for reading
  • Difficulties with speech mussels control for speech articulation
  • Difficulties with language
  • Late talkers
  • Mixing up words
  • Making up new words
  • Slow at retrieving words from memory
  • Slow at mastering grammatical rules
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Decoding abilities

Teens with double deficit dyslexia often show problems with:

  • Handwriting
  • Written expression
  • Math
  • Processing speed
  • Mishearing words
  • Motor coordination
  • Difficulty hearing with
  • background noise
  • Following directions
  • Keeping information to themselves
  • Procedures
  • Planning and organizing
  • Error detection
  • Time awareness
  • Pacing
  • Sequencing
  • Focus and attention
  • Understanding how words work together in groups

Subtypes of Dyslexia, Organized by Strengths Instead of Deficits

While the most common way to categorize dyslexia is by deficit type, there is another, more optimistic way to do this. Rather than classifying dyslexia by deficits, it is possible to do it by strengths.

There are four types of strengths commonly associated with people who are dyslexic:

Material Reasoning

Some people with dyslexia display an increased ability to reason about the physical or material world. This includes spatial thinking, visual thinking, and navigation.

Interconnected Reasoning

Other people with dyslexia have an improved ability to spot connections between different ideas, objects, or different points of view. This can include things like pattern detection and big picture type thinking.

Narrative Reasoning

A third strength that some people with dyslexia have shown is an increased capacity for reasoning and learning with stories. People with this strength are capable storytellers, have strong personal memories, and have a talent for scene creation.

Dynamic Reasoning

Lastly, some dyslexic people have highly developed abilities to reason in complex and changing environments that include high levels of mental stimulation and the ability to predict future events with increased accuracy. People who have a dynamic reasoning strength are generally goal-directed and can understand complex systems.

Here are some other advantages (superpowers) that are associated with being dyslexic!

  • Strong mechanical and spacial abilities
  • Spotting unusual connections
  • Good visual/ spacial sense
  • Visual memory for people and past events (episodic memory)
Play Video about The True Gift of Dyslexia, a TED Talk | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy Program for Teens

Social & Emotional Impact of Dyslexia

It is unfortunate that being “different” is often shamed. Especially in middle school and high school. Dyslexic teenagers are often in special education classes that take the place of “normal classes.” Teachers and other students often single dyslexic students out. This makes it hard for dyslexic people to understand what is “wrong” with them. The social implications can turn inward, and issues with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can arise.

Anxiety and Depression

It is common for those struggling with dyslexia to also experience mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Dyslexia can often lead people to feel different from their peers and lead to challenges in a young person’s primary social setting: school. These challenges can make children and teens feel different, increase stress, and struggle with low self esteem.

Further, these challenges can cause self-doubt, a lack of self-worth and can lead to substance abuse. Everyone wants to fit in at some level, and dyslexia can make this more difficult.

Executive Functioning

"For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned"

- Benjamin Franklin, activist, author, humorist, and scientist who was dyslexic.

Bouncing from class to class, learning different subjects, and being on time for everything. It is a challenge for people who are dyslexic. Not to mention turning assignments in on time and planning study time. The combination of time management and organization can be tricky. So coming up with a way for them to keep it all straight in a way that makes sense to them. Maybe it is having a binder for every class. Or writing it all down in an oversized planner. Having a system to keep track of it all can help them keep it all straight and get what they need to get done, done.

This is a struggle for people who are dyslexic who tend to struggle with executive functioning.
Executive functioning is a combination of skills that includes:

  • Proficiency in adaptable thinking
  • Planning
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-control
  • Working memory
  • Time management
  • Organization

Executive functioning skills are expected to be mastered during the teenage years. For a dyslexic teen or others with learning differences, it can make them feel like they are falling further behind because things like organization, working memory, time management, and planning can be difficult.

Breaking the Stigma around Dyslexia in Teens

While dyslexia in teens has its challenges, it is not all negative. Dyslexia is often associated with improved social awareness. One of the ways that this manifests is excellent facial recognition. Other ways include increased creativity, and a well-developed sense of grit. Those who experience dyslexia are also known to have increased empathy and commonly show higher levels of kindness and understanding. Your child will inevitably have mixed emotions about their differences. This can be combated with pride. Remind your child to look back on the progress that they have made in carving their own path.

How Parents Can Help

Parents can make a massive difference in the lives of their children with learning challenges. Their support and understanding of their struggles can make a huge difference. Parents can be advocates for their children and work with them to solve problems. Above all, parents can provide support by not shaming their children. Dyslexic teens have enough of that from their day-to-day life.

Instead, parents can provide the kind of support that brings up their self-confidence. This puts a lot of stress and responsibility on parents but is an opportunity to brighten that relationship.

Individual Attention

The most important thing for a parent to do for a dyslexic child is to be present and involved in their life. While there has to be a balance between providing opportunities for individuality and identity development, a parent should be fully engaged in providing the best possible situation for their child’s success. This can include everything from ensuring access to proper academic resources and accommodations to providing one-on-one tutoring. Finding the right balance for this role is difficult but is critical to your child’s future.

Help Them Learn to Advocate For Themselves

Traditional learning environments can be difficult for people who are dyslexic. Some can even be a complete waste of time, but small changes can make a big difference. For example, sitting in front of a class, testing in a separate room, or having someone read test questions aloud. There are many accommodations that your teen will be entitled to, as long as they ask for them, and make sure that others follow through.

Work with your child on how to be articulate and how to communicate their needs. This can often be an intimidating or uncomfortable part of the process, but it is critical for their success. Good communication skills are also likely to carry over into other areas of their life making the time invested an even better value.

Areas of Focus to Help Your Teen

While dyslexia is categorized as a learning disorder, it can also have significant impacts on one’s emotions. The emotional side of dyslexia is important to acknowledge to promote the healthy development of coping skills in children and teens.


One of the emotional impacts associated with dyslexia is decreased self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to achieve goals and succeed. For someone with dyslexia, there are going to be tasks that are always going to be challenging. Often for children and teens, these are tasks found in school, including reading and procedural learning. When faced with one of these challenging tasks, children and teens often require extra time or different kinds of support to succeed. Repeated struggles in these tasks can lead someone to doubt their abilities and decrease their overall self-efficacy.

Developing a Growth Mindset

A fixed mindset is a state of being where someone believes that their abilities are static and unchangeable. For example, when diagnosed with a learning disorder like dyslexia, people can often fall into a fixed mindset. This means that they believe that their learning disorder limits them from succeeding in certain areas. In reality, while someone with dyslexia is unlikely to win a spelling bee, they can succeed in many other areas as long as they believe that they can and develop a growth mindset.

Overcoming Failure

While there are some emotional challenges associated with dyslexia, there are also some positive emotional outcomes. Being dyslexic means getting comfortable with the idea of failure. This comes out of the learning challenges that children and teens often face in school. The positive of this is that people who are dyslexic learn to overcome the fear of failure that often paralyzes the average person. Rather than avoiding risks due to fear of failure, people who are dyslexic are generally not risk-averse. This can lead to positive outcomes, which can be seen in the fact that many successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. While starting a business has many risks, someone who is dyslexic is more likely to take on that risk and potentially reap the benefits.

Resources to Help Your Dyslexic Teen

There are many resources that your child has at their disposal when managing their dyslexia. One of the most important but often overlooked of these resources is your state’s disability office. State disability offices can provide professional services and tools that help your child. They are experts in this area, and it is their job to advocate for people who have learning differences and physical disabilities.

Dyslexia Tools

In the past, helping someone overcome the challenges of dyslexia meant teaching them different approaches and strategies of learning. While this is still an essential part of overcoming these challenges, there are now technological tools available that help someone who is dyslexic to work around their learning disorder. These tools mean that someone who is dyslexic doesn’t have to struggle as much as they may have in the past. There are now ways to make learning easier!

Spell check was one of the most significant technological developments for those with dyslexia. Before spell check, there was no easy way for someone to tell when they mixed up letters while writing or typing. While spell check changed all of that for the better, it has not been a panacea. Spell check still has some shortcomings. Grammarly addresses a lot of these shortcomings. Grammarly is an improved spell check that catches more than just spelling mistakes. Grammarly can check for things like spelling, grammar, tense, tone, and even simplicity. It is an excellent tool for someone who is dyslexic and can help in school, work, or personal settings.

Smart Phone

Smartphones have a few useful features for someone who is dyslexic. The first of these useful features is the speech-to-text function. This function allows the user to talk into their phone, translating that speech into written text. There is no need to write anything down. This is particularly useful for writing short text messages or emails. The next useful feature is text to speech. This can be great for reading text messages or emails. One of the struggles people who are dyslexic have is misreading messages. Enabling this feature can save them from written communication issues.

Reading & Writing Programs

One of the most difficult challenges for someone with dyslexia is reading at a level and pace comparable to their peers. No matter how much time someone puts in, they will often have to put in more effort than their peers in reading. One type of tool that can help with this is a reading program. There are many different reading programs out there, but they all function in a relatively similar way. These programs take written text and translate it into audio. So, instead of struggling with the written words, the reader can listen to the text at a speed of their choice.

Kurzweil 3000 is the most highly recommended reading program for text-to-speech functionality on the market. While Kurzweil 3000 is an expensive program ($700/year is the cost of the subscription), many school resource or disability offices will fund the purchase of this program for qualifying candidates. Kurzweil 3000 is particularly useful because it has a Google Chrome plugin allowing it to be used seamlessly with web browsing.

One of the most useful writing programs for speech-to-text functionality is Dragon. Dragon is a user-friendly piece of software that can help people who struggle with writing to get their ideas down on paper with less effort. This can help people keep pace with their peers in school or work.


Livescribe SmartPen is a helpful tool for dyslexics because it transcribes handwritten notes in real-time, acts as an audio recorder for lectures, and syncs your written notes with the audio for your future reference. There are also other kinds of smartpens with different functionalities that may fit your needs better.

Day Planners

A planner can help with the executive functioning challenges that your teen might be facing. While a physical planner might seem old-fashioned, the process of taking physical notes can sometimes help get things in order. If a physical planner isn’t working, there are many virtual planners available on phones and computers. These can be particularly useful for someone who is dyslexic because they pair well with text-to-speech and speech-to-text functions on these devices.


While this is a simple solution, Amazon Kindle or other E-Readers have text-to-speech functions that allow easier reading access. This can be for school, work, or pleasure and make reading less intimidating and even fun.

Accommodations for Dyslexia

There are many accommodations that dyslexic teens can take advantage of, depending on their testing and individual needs.

These accommodations include:

  • Time and a half for testing
  • Individual testing rooms
  • Audiobooks
  • Text to speech software
  • Test reader (someone who reads the test to the student)
  • Someone to help take notes
  • Calculator
  • Scantron free testing
  • Smartpen
  • Recording lectures

Accommodations are an important step for dyslexic teens to find success at school. Finding the right combination of accommodations can be the difference between success and failure for your teen. It is important to ask questions and find solutions that help your teen to reach their potential.

"Special" Education

Many parents of dyslexic children are familiar with the special education offerings of public or private education. Here is a quick refresher and also additional information to help navigate this world.

504 Plan

A 504 plan is not specifically for individuals with learning disabilities. Person’s who qualify have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. As dyslexic persons, a 504 plan allows for them to remain in the classroom with accommodations. Therefore, a 504 plan can be less stigmatizing.


An Independent Education Plan is a common academic intervention. Many parents may be familiar with IEPs since they require parents’ involvement. An IEP means many things for a child or teen during school hours. For example, it could qualify them for special education classes, neuropsychological testing every year, and other types of special treatment like extra time on tests or taking tests in a remote area with minimal distractions. While these can contribute to a child’s academic success, many parents are led to believe that the school and their accommodations are all that needs to be done. In reality, for many people with dyslexia, that is not the case. Many dyslexics need additional support outside of their IEP.

When learning is removed from the walls of traditional schooling, many dyslexic students excel.

Additional Support to Consider

Outside tutoring – Dyslexic people tend to do well with one-on-one individual attention. Relieving social pressure in the learning process can help kids who might be embarrassed when they need clarification. When selecting an outside tutor, it is important to hire someone patient and understanding of the child’s struggles and strengths. Someone who can help them overcome struggles and be non-judgmental about them.

Private neuropsychological testing – To clearly understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, neuropsychological testing outside of the school environment can add a lot of clarity. This kind of testing can lead to a proper diagnosis and successful early intervention. But just getting the test done and reading the recommendations isn’t enough. It is important to have someone who understands testing sit down and explain the results. Then for you to interpret those results to your child in a developmentally appropriate way.

For example, explaining that they may have a poor score on spelling and math is not as important as their IQ being 25% above average. Dyslexic people are used to others questioning their intellect and, in turn, doubting themselves. Having a piece of paper that proves that they are not only smart is key for their self-confidence.

Having an idea of their own strengths and weaknesses can be great for their self-esteem but also can provide a direction when it comes to future planning. It can help them choose classes that they can excel in or a school they want to go to, or even a career path that suits their unique talents.

How to Advocate for Your Teen

Being an informed advocate for your child is essential for them to succeed academically. Further, it is important to teach them how to advocate for themselves. Advocating for oneself can be hard for teens because it signals themselves out and highlights their learning differences. Still, developing good communication with your child’s teachers is the best way to advocate in a school setting. This helps teachers to become more aware of their student’s learning differences and lets them prepare accommodations for students who need them.

Teaching Teens to Advocate For Themselves

Even though dyslexia is common, people often do not understand what it means to be dyslexic and how to support someone who is dyslexic. Teens need to learn to navigate these challenges in school for themselves to develop the necessary skills for when it comes up in college or a future job.

What Dyslexic Teens Need to Learn:

  • Tools they need to succeed – reading programs, text to speech
  • Funding that is available to them
  • Rights they have and how to tell employers what they need
  • Resources that they can reach out to for guidance or assistance when needed

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define the rights of students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. These individuals are legally entitled to special services to help them overcome and accommodate their learning problems. Such services include education programs designed to meet the needs of these students. The Acts also protect people with dyslexia against unfair and illegal discrimination.

College and Career Considerations for Teens with Dyslexia

Sometimes traditional schooling doesn’t work out for a dyslexic individual. Work experience and on-the-job training become the way to meet their goals. As a result, dyslexic people’s career’s often are full of twists and turns. Sometimes it looks like their lives don’t make sense unless you really understand the connections between each point.

When looking into colleges, it is important to visit their disability center in the application process. Some are great and help guide through the college experience; others can be a hindrance to success.

Also, keep in mind colleges often give tuition assistance and tuition waivers for people who are dyslexic or have other “disabilities.” It is important to know that this process can take a while to work through. Make sure to get started as soon as possible. You will need to provide testing, IEP information, etc. It is recommended to start looking into this a couple of years before college. Early planning can ball rolling and maximize their benefits.

Treatment Options For When Teens With Dyslexia Need Extra Help

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All in all, dyslexia should not be looked at as a disorder but a different way of thinking and learning. It can be hard to look at it that way when you are young and struggling through school, among other things that go along with being a teenager. When things get too overwhelming for teens there are options that can help them become the best version of themselves.

Programs like Aspiro Adventure Therapy can provide teens and young adults with dyslexia the chance to step outside the classroom and learn life skills that go far beyond it.

One of the greatest benefits of the Aspiro program is the increase in self-efficacy that student’s experience. This can especially benefit teengers who are dyslexic. Wilderness adventure therapy has consistently shown to improve self-efficacy through a process by which youth are exposed to seemingly impossible challenges, in novel environments, and through guidance, hard work, and grit, they can find success. Studies on self-efficacy indicate that efficacy beliefs are the best predictor of future performance; therefore, by addressing these issues through wilderness adventure therapy, one can effectively improve the chances of future success.

Another thing that Aspiro helps students with is building grit and resilience. Grit is about perseverance, passion, and determination when things get hard. Resilience is about having the skills and experience to bounce back from setbacks and struggles. Together, Aspiro’s reliance on clinically advanced methodologies and the opportunities for growth provided by adventure and nature are a powerful combination.

Aspiro Adventure uses a dynamic approach that is evidence-based. Aspiro provides accurate mental health assessments, so you can be assured that your teen is getting the help that they need. Neurological testing can be done on-site and interpreted so that their unique set of strengths and weaknesses can be outlined. With this awareness they can have a deeper understanding of themselves. Aspiro provides direction, space and time that is unplugged from the normal everyday distractions.

At Aspiro parents get the coaching they need to support their child best emotionally, and academically.

If you are considering professional counseling and think that wilderness adventure therapy might be a good fit for your teen, reach out to the Aspiro Adventure admissions team. They are available any time to answer all of your questions. Give them a call today at (801) 349-2740.

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The Best ADHD Treatment Programs for Teens & Young Adults

The best adhd treatment Programs for Teenagers and Young Adults | Aspiro Adventure Therapy Program

ADHD is not an uncommon struggle in today’s society; approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have a diagnosis of ADHD as of 2011. While many people associate ADHD as a childhood disorder, many individuals struggle through their teenage years, well into, or throughout, adulthood. Today, about 4 percent of American adults over the age of 18 deal with ADHD on a daily basis.

The neurodevelopmental disorder presents individuals with significant hurdles in life, such as executive functioning deficits, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. That being said, a psychological diagnosis does not have to define the course of someone’s life. ADHD has particularly manageable symptoms, and when treated properly, does not have to get in the way of your child’s success.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to address mental health and developmental issues as they arise. We have seen the cost of delaying treatment or avoiding one’s issues; it is vastly wiser to handle problems head-on, as early as possible.

ADHD Symptoms in Teens and Young Adults

Some kids with ADHD are diagnosed as very young children; symptoms such as impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattention are usually symptoms parents and teachers pick up on quickly. However, ADHD goes overlooked and undiagnosed in many children, as not everyone displays these symptoms in a disruptive way. For example, some children who sit back, quietly daydreaming in class are overlooked.

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The DSM-V now classifies Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder into predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD and predominantly Inattentive ADHD; some individuals display traits of both, known as ADHD Combined Type. According to the DSM-V, the individual’s symptoms must be “present in multiple settings (e.g., school and home), that can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings.”

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD Symptoms:

  • Often fidgets, squirms, taps feet or hands, etc.
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Difficulties performing quiet tasks/activities
  • Difficulty waiting in lines
  • Interrupting others
  • Restless feeling
  • Excessive talking
  • Blurting out answers before hearing the entire question

Inattentive ADHD Symptoms:

  • Not paying close attention to schoolwork or making careless mistakes
  • Difficulties sustaining attention for tasks
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Trouble with organization
  • Skipping from one uncompleted task to another
  • Missing deadlines
  • Disorganized schoolwork
  • Easily distracted by stimuli
  • Loses or forgets things necessary for completing school work (books, assignments, pencils, etc.)

This is often referred to as “ADD” by many laymen, including parents and teachers. The term “ADD” was used by professionals until the early 1990’s, when it was changed to ADHD. Although “ADD” it is not used in the DSM-V, the term is still widely used outside of the mental health and healthcare communities. These can often be the “daydreamers” whose symptoms are overlooked.

The Facts About ADHD in Teenagers and Young Adults | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

ADHD Combined Type:

Individuals who display symptoms of both predominantly inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive are diagnosed with combined type ADHD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this is the most common type of ADHD.

If you notice these symptoms of ADHD, speak to his or her teachers, counselors, and/or coaches to see if they have noticed any similar symptoms. If you suspect your child has ADHD, talking to his or her physician to confirm the ADHD diagnosis is a logical next step to ensuring your child’s long-term recovery.

ADHD and Anxiety/Depression

It is not uncommon for teens and young adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD to struggle with anxiety or depression. In fact, up to 30% of children and 25%-40% of adults with ADHD have a coexisting anxiety disorder.

Another common coexisting condition for individuals with ADHD is depression; according to the National Resource Center on ADHD, “up to 70 percent of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives.” The incidence of ADHD and depression in children is attributed to the fact that, individuals with ADHD can become frustrated and overwhelmed by their symptoms, and “may develop feelings of a lack of control over what happens in their environment or become depressed as they experience repeated failures or negative interactions in school, at home, and in other settings. As these negative experiences accumulate, the child with ADHD may begin to feel discouraged.”

"up to 30% of children and 53% of adults with ADHD have a coexisting anxiety disorder."

National Resource Center on ADHD Tweet

"up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives."

National Resource Center on ADHD Tweet

Since ADHD symptoms are sometimes congruent with symptoms of depression and anxiety, many young people’s depression or anxiety gets overlooked. For example, strained peer relationships, decreased school performance/motivation, and an inability to focus can be symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, or depression.

When a young person has two coexisting conditions, their treatment path becomes a bit more complicated. For example, children with anxiety and ADHD appear to be less responsive to traditional ADHD medication treatments; in addition, there are some anti-depressants that are not approved for children under 18.

While not every adolescent or young adult with ADHD will experience emotional turmoil, disregarding their symptoms as being part of their ADHD will allow anxiety and/or depression to go unresolved. Knowing that your child is at-risk for a coexisting condition makes it easier to watch out for signs of anxiety or depression in your child.

Early intervention is critical in helping teens and young adults learn to cope with their symptoms. If you notice symptoms of depression or anxiety in your child who has ADHD, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s physician or mental healthcare provider. If you suspect that your child has a coexisting condition with their ADHD, it is vital to find a mental healthcare provider who is well versed in treating not only ADHD but anxiety and/or depression to ensure that your son or daughter receives safe and effective treatment.

ADHD and Family Conflict

Having a child with ADHD can be stressful for the entire family, and can strain relationships, as these families often experience a more behavioral and emotional strain. Living with ADHD symptoms can be extremely difficult; impulsivity, difficulties with their social skills and interactions, in addition to a difficulty managing anger; this can cause an additional strain on the family dynamic. In fact, teens with ADHD report having more parent-teen conflict that teens who do not have ADHD.

Parents of kids with ADHD are three times as likely to separate or divorce as parents of non- ADHD children. There are many contributing factors: parents may disagree on treatment routes/ plans, medications, therapists, etc. In addition, the added stress of parenting a child struggling with ADHD can be overwhelming for parents.

In addition to creating parent-child conflict in the family dynamic, it may cause resentment, jealousy, or tension between siblings as well. Because parents spend extra time managing medications, doctors appointments, school meetings, and/or behavioral therapy sessions, some siblings may resent extra time/attention their sibling with ADHD receives.

The best way for parents to help is to implement a routine and clear rules for all individuals living in the household. In addition, staying positive and focusing on your child’s strengths will encourage more positive behavior. When you do need to give your child a correction, remember to reprimand the child’s behavior– not the child. For example: instead of “You make me so mad when you interrupt me!” try, “It makes me unhappy when you interrupt me, please wait your turn.”

ADHD and School Troubles

While some people with ADHD also struggle with depression and/or anxiety, other individuals may have an undiagnosed learning disability. Learning disabilities often coincide with ADHD; in fact, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of children with ADHD are diagnosed with a learning disability.

While ADHD is not considered a learning disability, one of the symptoms of ADHD is having academic difficulties, due to an inability to focus. Due to the assumption that it is their ADHD causing the school challenges, some children who have a learning disability coinciding with ADHD will never have their learning disability diagnosed.

When children are having difficulties at school, parents are often the first to notice. If you suspect your child’s academic struggles may be stemming from a learning disability, it is important to notify his or her teacher and your family physician.

A learning disability is a lifelong obstacle; while children don’t “grow out of it,” they can learn skills to compensate for their learning differences. Early recognition, diagnosis, and getting proper help early on is key to your son or daughter’s academic success.

If your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, he or she may be eligible for special education services under one of three federal statutes. It is vital that, as a parent, you are an advocate for your son or daughter. In order to become an effective advocate for your son or daughter, you should become informed about their rights under the law and ways to help him or her succeed in school.

Even if your son or daughter is not diagnosed with a learning disability, your child may still be eligible for special services (like ADHD coaching and tutoring), accommodations or modifications to the curriculum or coursework, depending on the severity of his or her ADHD symptoms. If your son or daughter is still struggling in school, talk to his or her teacher about ways you can help at home.

Untreated ADHD and At-Risk Teens

As teens get older and make their first forays into more adult privileges and responsibilities, there is also a higher (2x-4x) risk for car accidents among teens with ADHD. This, in addition to the increased propensity for substance abuse, waning academic performance, and the difficulty maintaining relationships can make adolescence much more of a struggle than it needs to be. Part of the higher risk of risky behavior, according to ADDitude Mag, is the fact that “The rate of emotional development for children with ADHD is 30% slower than their non-ADD peers. For example, a 10-year-old with ADHD operates at the maturity level of about a 7-year-old; a 16-year-old beginning driver is using the decision-making skills of an 11-year-old.” The good news is that teen drivers with ADHD who take their medication are less likely to have an accident These problematic behavioral patterns can result from the exacerbation of the fact that individuals with ADHD may be more:
  • Impulsive
  • Risk-taking
  • Immature in judgment
  • Thrill-seeking
  • Distracted
Fortunately, these symptoms – and the increased risk for car accidents and substance abuse – can be mitigated by early intervention and by ensuring that individuals receive effective treatment based on their individual needs, strengths, and challenges. Addressing these issues is critical not only because it will make the journey through adolescence easier for your teen with ADHD, but because the treatment that an individual receives in childhood and adolescence is often predictive of their success as an adult.

ADHD Treatment Options

While some individuals may “outgrow” or be able to overcome their symptoms, others may need counseling, neurofeedback, medication, or wellness and lifestyle changes to help treat ADHD. Depending on the individual’s age, diagnosis, and response to treatment, the treatment plan may include any combination of the following:

ADHD Medication

Stimulants are the most popular form of medication prescribed for ADD/ADHD. Stimulants like methylphenidate can alleviate symptoms such as inability to focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Some individuals may not be helped by stimulants and may be treated with non-stimulant medication to help mitigate symptoms. These non-stimulant drugs come without many of the side effects of stimulants, including anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure, and insomnia.

Behavioral Therapy

It is helpful for individuals with ADHD to set up a structured schedule and routine. Behavior therapy can also help teens and young adults address any academic, social, or emotional struggles they may be facing. While talk therapy and behavioral interventions can address these challenges, they are only truly effective if:

    1. your child is invested 100% and
    2. you coordinate with your child’s therapists and teachers to help keep your child on track.

Parent Education

Parental support and participation plays a pivotal role in the success of treatment for ADHD. Taking the time to understand what your child is going through, and work with your child’s therapist to help establish a structure and routine for your child, can show your child you care, and are supportive of his or her treatment path.

ADHD Treatment Programs

Sometimes, even with all the talk therapy, medication and parental support in the world, it just isn’t enough. This is especially true when young people are battling ADHD along with depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or a family conflict. Although it may not be the easy choice, sometimes sending your child to an evidence-based treatment program can be the best choice to help him or her learn to cope with their symptoms.

While there are many options to help individuals cope with their symptoms, there is no magic “cure” for ADHD; however, with the proper treatment and support team, children with ADHD can grow into successful and well adjusted young adults.

4 Ways to Support Your ADHD Child at Home

Struggling with the symptoms of ADHD while going through adolescence or the transition to adulthood can be tough. Knowing you are there for them can help. While no one ever wants to send their child off to treatment, sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Helping your child feel loved, supported, and respected during their treatment is vital to his or her success.

Knowing how to support your loved one in a helpful way during their treatment for ADHD can be difficult, but as they feel your encouragement and faith in their ability to overcome their challenges and your trust in their treatment team, your child’s hope for a different life can be strengthened. Learning as much as you can from your child about what the struggle has been like for them can help them feel your support.

1. Learn More about ADHD

Find out as much as you can about ADHD and any other diagnoses your child receives. Research, read, and learn from the many resources available on ADHD, from blog posts, podcasts and videos, to eBooks. Attend a class or support group for caregivers of children with ADHD.

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Understanding his or her struggle is the first step in helping them overcome their obstacles. Learn about what kinds of tasks will be difficult for your son or daughter, and what resources are available to aid him or her in overcoming those obstacles.

2. Foster a Healthy Lifestyle

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are all part of maintaining your children’s health.

  • Diet/Nutrition: Some researchers argue that a restricted diet can actually help improve ADHD symptoms. Others argue that all children can benefit from a healthy, well- balanced diet. Encourage your child to make healthy food choices. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day can minimize blood sugar & blood pressure spikes and keep his or her energy up.
  • Healthy Sleep Hygiene: Many individuals with ADHD have difficulties sleeping due to the medication(s) they are taking; however, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is critical to feeling balanced and well-rested. Teenagers need at least 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Helping your son or daughter maintain a sleep schedule, discouraging tv or electronics in bed, and restricting sugar and caffeine in the evenings can all help.
  • Exercise: Since some of the major symptoms of ADHD are restless behavior, fidgeting, and impulsivity, regular exercise can be helpful in coping with or minimizing symptoms. Encourage your son or daughter to live an active lifestyle; better yet, make it a family affair. It can be as simple as walking the dog each day after dinner or playing basketball in the driveway.
  • Set a Schedule for Medication Management: Some medications for ADHD need to be taken on a schedule, some should be taken with food, and some on an empty stomach. Make sure your son or daughter is being diligent about sticking to their schedule and taking their medications at the appropriate times.

3. Encourage a Positive Peer Environment

Encourage your son or daughter to hang out with uplifting and encouraging friends who are positive influences. Many individuals with ADHD struggle with social skills, relating to others, forming meaningful relationships, and making friends. If he or she has difficulties making friends who are positive, uplifting people, offer to enroll him or her is a social activity that he or she would enjoy, such as an art class, sports team, or after school club. It is also vital to watch out for negative influences or a sudden change in peer groups, as these could be detrimental to his or her progress.

4. Get Involved with the Treatment Process

As a parent and caregiver, you are a part of the treatment team, along with your child and professionals. Meet with treatment professionals to understand their recommendations, ways you can help and openly discuss any concerns. Encourage the collaboration of professionals by giving permission for each to speak and requesting they do so. If appropriate, join your child’s therapy session or have a family therapy session to learn how you can support your child. Monitor his or her medication and ensure that he or she attends therapy. Be sure to notify your child’s healthcare provider or mental health professional if his or her ADHD symptoms do not improve or if they increase.

Knowing When to Seek ADHD Treatment

ADHD can affect individuals in a variety of ways; some people with ADHD grow out of the disorder in adolescence. Many will continue to struggle with the condition throughout adulthood. While the symptoms of ADHD in adolescents are similar to the symptoms in children, they often worsen during teenage years due to the hormonal shifts of puberty. Impulsive, irritable, overactive children who have difficulty focusing can evolve into teens who may display a number of issues.

Sometimes talk therapy and medication is not enough to help teens and young adults cope with their symptoms, especially when there are other diagnoses, including: anxiety, depression, a learning disorder, or a behavioral disorder. If your teen’s symptoms go beyond typical struggles with ADHD and borders on risky or violent behavior, it is time to consider seeking more intensive treatment.

The following are red flag signs of that your child needs treatment:

    • Not taking/refusing their medications
    • Reckless driving
    • Drug or Alcohol abuse
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Risky sexual behavior
    • Depression/moodiness
    • Anxiety symptoms

If you do decide to seek treatment for your son or daughter, make sure that an effective course of treatment is pursued. Everyone has different needs, and each individual with ADHD will respond differently to a variety of treatments. One way to address these issues is through wilderness therapy; allowing for engagement in various experiential activities to learn to manage their ADHD and while receiving clinical treatment. For many individuals, ADHD programs are the right choice.

How Wilderness Therapy Helps with ADHD

A psychological diagnosis does not have to define the course of someone’s life. ADHD has particularly manageable symptoms, and when treated properly, does not have to get in the way of an individual’s success. That said, it is crucial to address behavioral health, mental health, and developmental issues as they arise. We have seen the cost of delaying treatment of ADHD or avoiding one’s issues; it is vastly wiser to handle problems head-on, as early as possible.

There are a variety of treatment options available for individuals who have ADHD. Every individual is different; depending on your child’s age and severity of their symptoms, you may be considering medication alone, medication and behavior therapy, or in more severe cases, an ADHD treatment program. One type of treatment program that has proven extremely effective in helping individuals with ADHD is wilderness therapy. The effectiveness of wilderness therapy in helping these individuals is due to the therapeutic wilderness setting, adventure activities, and positive peer relationships.

Wilderness Setting

Living in the wilderness is an unfamiliar environment and experience for many individuals with ADHD. This allows them to leave the pressure and stress of their everyday lives behind and practice new ways of handling the ADHD. Wilderness therapy programs move with the rhythms of the natural world, which is soothing to humans. According to Taniguchi, Widmer, Duerden, & Draper (2009): the mere presence of nature and vegetation has significant positive effects on children’s:

    • Self-discipline
    • Attentional functioning
    • Stress resilience
    • Engagement in creative play

The wilderness setting also exposes teens to natural consequences. Recognizing and experiencing natural consequences has a great impact on developing intrinsic motivation. Teens and young adults with ADD/ADHD must understand how the consequence relates to their actions for this to develop. For example, if a student chooses to not build a shelter when the staff tells them it is going to rain, the consequence is they, and their belongings, get wet.

Adventure Activities

Some wilderness therapy programs incorporate adventure therapy activities. This allows for a more comprehensive assessment in multiple settings and with different challenges, of each student’s needs, deficits, and challenges. Adventure therapy utilizes a variety of novel environments to push teens and young adults to learn more effective coping skills, problem-solving skills, executive function skills, and social skills; these are skills that many individuals with ADHD need to improve.

Incorporating adventure therapy activities allows for In Vivo therapy. In Vivo therapy offers the ability for students with ADHD to operate and process what they are learning “in the moment.” The In Vivo method allows them to learn more experientially. This helps to teach individuals with attention and executive functioning deficits what they do not typically understand in a way that makes it more “normal,” and less like therapy.

Aside from an increased buy-in to participate in therapy due to the variety of appealing activities, the adventure therapy activities provide ADHD students with opportunities to confront their challenges. This also helps individuals with ADHD by utilizing overwhelming mastery experiences to increase self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in oneself to overcome adversity/difficulties in life. This is vital, as research has shown self-efficacy as one of the most influential predictors of behavioral change. (Wells, Widmer, & McCoy 2004)

The more repetitive a treatment program can be with overwhelming mastery experiences, the better. Teens and young adults with ADD/ADHD are more likely to generalize the belief that they can achieve difficult things, and can incorporate this belief into different domains of life: classroom, peers, family, etc.

Positive Peer Relationships

Since many with ADHD have trouble forming meaningful peer relationships and struggle with their social skill deficits, the therapeutic group setting of wilderness therapy is extremely critical for treatment and social skills training.

Wilderness therapy offers individuals with ADHD the opportunity to form both peer bonds with others and mentor/mentee relationships with wilderness therapy staff. Since wilderness therapy takes place in a group setting, students have the opportunity to learn from others who are overcoming the same obstacles through wilderness therapy. The group setting allows group development processes to facilitate learning.

Aspiro Alumn Shares What the Wilderness Taught Him About ADHD

In this ten-minute TED Talk, Aspiro alumnus, David Rosen, talks about battling his monster: living with ADHD. In the video, he is brave, open and honest, discussing ADHD symptoms in teens and how to help a child with ADHD. He encourages compassion and acceptance when interacting with others– no matter what their particular monster is.

David also discusses his time in the wilderness at a program that is geared specifically to address the challenges of teens with ADHD. He describes his experience at Aspiro as the “greatest transformation of my life.” While he still lives with his monster on a daily basis, David knows how to deal with his ADHD symptoms and has a positive outlook on life.


Young people who receive treatment early are more responsive to treatment. Some individuals with ADHD will grow out of their symptoms, others will continue to grapple with the disorder throughout adulthood. While no parent ever wants to send their child away, it may be worth exploring wilderness therapy as a treatment option for ADHD. The disadvantages – absence from school, separation from family and friends – are short-term, but the benefits hold the potential to last a lifetime.

Statistically, adults with ADHD experience higher incidence of divorce, substance abuse, and unemployment. While this diagnosis does not have to be a life sentence, it is important to give adolescents affected by ADHD the tools to overcome their differences. If someone you care about has been diagnosed with ADHD, don’t let them become a statistic.

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About Aspiro Adventure Therapy Program

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Aspiro Adventure offers safe, effective, and clinically-sophisticated options to treat ADHD in young adults and teenagers.

Aspiro Adventure’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program was uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right.

Aspiro Adventure focuses on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through difficulties that occur when various behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.

By Josh Watson, LCSW, CMO at Aspiro Adventure Therapy Program