Being Relational With Underserved Youth: A Reflective Process
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When working with under-served youth, possibly the most important, yet often times the most difficult, thing for practitioners to do is to build positive, trusting, open relationships. This study aims to address this challenge. Two groups of under-served youth were examined, one being teens deemed “at-risk” and one being youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study was novel in its approach as all efforts were made to ensure the youth's opinions on how to be relational with them were heard. Two youths with ASD were nonverbal and a special picture interview procedure was developed to allow their participation. Three thematic statements emerged from the data collected: 1. Youth need low anxiety relationships. 2. Youth need novel forms of engagement. 3. Youth need us to understand that their actions reflect their histories. The analyses that lead to these statements are described as well as the reasoning and implications of these statements.