How Do I Survive The Teen Years With My Child With Autism?

The teen years can be rough for anyone… and certainly a teen with asd can be especially challenging. Finding a community of people can be a great gift during these years. SASI has a social/life skills group that we run and the kids that participate in it can feel a sense of belonging and friendship which can help fill a void in a time of challenge. There are also great places in the community that offer clubs and programs for asd teens and young adults. Take advantage of those! Even though our lives can be hectic and busy make the time! The benefits can be great.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you have a teen with Autism.
  • Allow the teen to be non-compliant in appropriate ways. Non-compliance in a teen on the spectrum is harder to handle than with neurotypical teens, but it starts by giving them more choices over their day. Whether or not they have autism, there’s a definite ‘shift’ in behavior and personality when children turn into teenagers. Wanting your attention changes to wanting their independence. For kids on the spectrum, this behavior change may look like non-compliance; they don’t follow through on your requests as before. But it’s actually a normal part of their development, entirely aside from their autism. As a parent it’s important to support your teen as he struggles to become his own person, and even though it may be hard to appreciate, this is a positive development. After years of being taught to do as he is told, your teen needs to start learning that it is acceptable at times to say ‘No,’ or he might find himself in dangerous situations with peers or others looking for an easy victim to prey upon.
  • Teenagers need to learn to make their own choices. Giving choices to your growing teen will teach him/her about decision making and accepting the consequences of his choice (good and bad), as well as help him/her realize he will eventually have more control over his/her own life. This applies no matter what the functioning level of the child. Offer him choices, regularly, and abide by the choice they make. Remember, as he/she gets older he/she will want and need to be more involved in his/her life and his transition planning. By letting him make choices now (within your parameters at first) you are teaching him/her valuable life skills.
  • Explain to your child about his/her changing body. Imagine how scary it must be to realize your body is going through some strange metamorphosis and you don’t know why, and yet there is nothing you can do about it. This is especially difficult for those who do not like change. Whether your child has a greater level of functioning and has sat through hygiene classes at school, or he is more impacted by autism and you’re not sure how much he/she understands, it is important to discuss the changing male and female body in a simple way they can understand. Otherwise, your teen may be overly anxious and agitated when she starts menstruating or when he has wet dreams. Visuals that include photos or drawings and simple words may be helpful, especially at the beginning. Be concrete and don’t overwhelm – this is certainly not a one-time talk!

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