14 August 2019
Young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often struggle through many of the normal stages of psychosocial development. Erikson developed a model that holds that individuals experience various developmental crises at stages throughout their life (JS Fleming, 2004). The stages pertaining to people under 20 years old are as follows:
- Trust vs Mistrust, between ages 0 to 2 years.
- Autonomy vs Shame/Doubt, between ages 2 to 4 years.
- Initiative vs Guilt, ages 5 to 8 years.
- Industry vs Inferiority, between ages 9 to 12 years.
- Identity vs Role Confusion, between ages 13 to 19 years.
This model highlights the critical nature of the development of an individual’s idea of self, search for identity and relationship with others as well as the effect of the individual’s culture and environment on their development (Woolfolk, 2005). As each crisis is experienced and tested, the individual will use what is already understood as scaffolding to shape the response to the following one. The following are how children develop socially and cognitively at each stage:
- Trust vs Mistrust (0 to 2 years): individuals’ ability to engage with others in their world is very much dependent on the feedback they received from their parents.
- Autonomy vs Shame/Doubt (2 to 4 years): at this age individuals will start to develop interests and autonomy of action and choice is exercised, but they will still rely on their parents to provide safety and guidance. Striking a balance between denying and allowing autonomy is key to developing individuals’ self-sufficiency and also teaching safe behaviours.
- Initiative vs Guilt (5 to 8 years): individuals are now facing the added cognition of planning, testing and judging tasks they undertake. Individuals will begin to initiate and see through a process for their own purpose; the mini scientist, testing their preconceived notions learnt from their parents in order to judge them for his/herself.
- Industry vs Inferiority (9 to 12 years): sees individuals having to rise to the demands of learning new skills that will take their cognition outside of their originally limited concept of the world, comprehending abstract and immaterial concepts of the greater world such as space, time and logic. At this stage, they will learn diligence, perseverance and self-confidence.
- Identity vs Role Confusion (13 to 19 years): individuals are now utilising their new world view to assess how they appear to others. They gravitate towards those they perceive share the same interests and world view, thus further shaping their identity. This stage also, towards its conclusion, sees the individual being asked to look towards the future either through their own industry or external pressures. This transition is a coalescing of the earlier stages into an identity forged from self-reflection and the perception of others’ intentions and societal demands.
For young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), stages four and five pose a hurdle to achieve with the added complication of ‘social blindness’; the inability to read peoples’ emotions and intent unless outwardly displayed, difficulties with reciprocity; the back-and-forth interactions that make up all social encounters and other quirks that are often misinterpreted by others as antisocial, aggressive or non-joining behaviours. Therefore, individuals with ASD can often have anxiety over interacting with others or in entering into situations where perceived unknowns may be encountered, leading to unwillingness to engage and develop social skills. Stages four and five hinge on peer relationships and practiced social skills. To develop a socially competent individual with a healthy self-identity, intervention is often required for young people with ASD to assist them in coping with these developmental crises and to progress alongside their peers.
Interchange Australia’s ASDESI program (Autism Spectrum Disorder Education, Support and Information) provides a range of education, support and information services for families caring for a young person (up to 18 years) with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to maximise the potential of each child and family. ASDESI offers a Holiday Kids Klub, held during every school holiday period. Children diagnosed with an ASD and their siblings can attend a wide range of fun, exciting and engaging outings that provide children with an opportunity to build social skills, confidence and to establish new friendships.
For more information about the Interchange Australia’s ASDESI program, please call Amber at 4868 6677.