Teens with Autism Build Social Skills with PEERS

At Heritage Academy, teens with autism build a variety of skills that help them develop confidence and a mindset geared toward an independent, successful future.


Our PEERS Academy provides residential treatment for neurodiverse adolescents and teens — including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — in a nurturing and empathetic atmosphere. Our evidence-based therapeutic protocols are highly individualized to integrate each student’s needs into their treatment plan.


The theoretical basis for PEERS Academy is the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Recreational Skills (PEERS), developed originally by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

residential treatment for autism


Using the principles of this groundbreaking program, we assist our students in developing life-changing social skills.


What Is the PEERS Program?


The UCLA PEERS program was originally developed to assist adolescents and teens with autism improve their ability to make — and keep — friends. The nature of ASD is that many autistic adolescents do not have the innate ability to read and respond to social cues appropriately. However, when patiently and gently taught socially normative responses, students learn to forge meaningful friendships that can last a lifetime.


One key aspect of PEERS Academy that sets it apart from other autism residential facilities is that we apply PEERS and other treatment protocols individually, based on an in-depth analysis of where your student is in the developmental process.


Because no two ASD students are alike, we tailor the PEERS Academy program to your student’s developmental level, to ensure that treatment in not only relevant, but highly meaningful.


What Social Skills Will PEERS Help Autistic Students Learn?


Our program involves teaching and honing practical skills like how to initiate, enter and exit a conversation, how to handle teasing and even how to select friends.


Some of the other practical skills your teen will learn at PEERS Academy include:

  • How to have appropriate conversations both in-person and electronically
  • How to recognize and use humor appropriately in conversation
  • How to be a good sport when interacting with friends and peers
  • How to have healthy disagreements with friends
  • How to organize social events with friends
  • How to recognize and address teasing, bullying and cyberbullying
  • How to handle rejection


How Does PEERS in Residential Treatment Benefit Teens with Autism?


Many parents of ASD children hesitate to consider residential treatment for autism. However, the research demonstrates the efficacy of a residential school approach.


In the home, surrounded by the same habits, rituals and distractions they’ve always had, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to teach ASD kids new thought and behavior patterns. A radical shift in the day-to-day experience opens adolescents and teens with autism up to have new experiences.


The hallmark of ASD is the inability to regulate emotion and response to everyday stimuli that most teens don’t even notice. In a highly controlled residential school environment, students can get away from the chaos and distress they experience, freeing their minds to learn and grow.


At Peers Academy and the Heritage Community, your autistic teen will be surrounded by trained and experienced caregivers who are keenly attuned to your child’s individual needs. As students develop healthy attachments with staff, they become increasingly able to regulate their emotional responses, helping them develop feelings of accomplishment. You will be delighted and amazed at the transformation you’ll see in your child.


Located in pristine and scenic northern Utah, the Heritage Community is committed to serving the needs of our students and their families, helping them develop the skills necessary for their future. Are you ready to give your adolescent or teen with autism the chance to become a happy, capable and successful adult? Contact us to learn more.