The teen years with your children are typically a challenge, throw in a child with autism adding in further challenges. Today I am sharing some thoughts on helping your autistic child navigate the teen years.
Ah the teen years.
We have all heard the horror stories of what the teen years will bring.
What you may not have heard are the added challenges an autistic child’s parents will have to navigate during this period.
I wanted to share some thoughts on helping your autistic child navigate the teen years.
Typical Teen Behaviors
There are some typical behaviors that teens experience and some of those your ASD child will experience as well.
This of course will depend on the function level of your particular child.
- wanting to change their appearance
- social withdrawal from family life
- becoming argumentative
- emotional ups and downs
- immense peer pressure to fit in
ASD Teen Behaviors
Your ASD child will experience many of the same behaviors as the typical teen but their behaviors could come across as their ASD getting worse.
Autistic children exhibit all types of behaviors prior to the teen years.
The teen years bring with it physical and hormonal changes of puberty that add to the typical ASD behaviors.
Know that often they don’t understand what they are feeling or the physical changes they are going through.
Typically while their peers are wanting to change their appearance, the ASD child will often want to keep the same look into high school.
Teens on the spectrum are not typically worried about their appearance.
Most likely they care nothing about personal hygiene and often would rather go without showering or changing clothes.
The typical peer pressures that other teens are feeling, the ASD child is ambivalent to.
Children with Autism are socially awkward and uncomfortable and may withdrawal from social settings even more during the teen years.
As parents there are some things we can do to help our ASD teens maneuver through these challenges.
Ways to navigate the teen years…
Helping our ASD teens work through the challenges of life will be a long road but so worth it to see them grown during these years.
First thing is remember raising our ASD children is a marathon and not a sprint.
Some days are extremely difficult for us and them, and the best thing we can do is try to remain positive.
The teen years their typical behaviors will be intensified making it difficult for the child and parent.
Sticking With Routine
If you have a child on the spectrum you know how important schedules and routine are in their daily functioning.
Just because they are now a teen does not mean that the routine should be thrown out the window.
They will still need to have structure, down time and prior notice of transitions.
Keeping these things will help them experience less anxiety and navigate the teen years.
Remember the ASD teen is less mature socially and emotionally than their actual age.
You can simplify their routine and reduce their personal belongings in order to help.
Tips on personal belonging.
For instance, my son only likes to wear basketball shorts, all year long.
We discovered several years ago that certain types of clothing were a big trigger for him.
In his wardrobe we only keep basketball shorts in his preferred colors to stave off outburst.
Remove any items from their personal spaces that may add stress or anxiety.
Let them help in deciding what needs to go, navigating some control.
This will help them feel more independent which is what they longing for in the teen years.
It really is about giving them little bits of responsibility to help them feel more independent.
Communicating with them about how certain things make them feel if they are able to discuss that with you will help you to help them.
Communication with your teen.
Communication with your autistic child may have never been easy but it will most likely become more difficult due to the nature of teen conversations.
Remember to not talk to your teen like they are a young child since we are navigating the teen years.
Talk to them with short messages so they can take in one thing at a time.
At this time in their lives it may be even harder for them to talk one on one and face to face with you.
Try writing down the schedule, chores and calendars and post it in your teen’s room.
Ask them what they prefer for communicating certain things.
It is important to give your teen a heads up if you are wanting to have a discussion about something.
This will give them the opportunity to mentally be ready and hopefully make the communication easier for you both.
It is important for us as parents to not get frustrated when trying to communicate with our teens.
If there becomes a point where both the parent and the teen is becoming increasingly agitated by the conversation, explain a break is needed and go back to it later.
This often happens in my home when we are ready for bath time.
Hygiene can be a difficult for children with ASD, due to sensory issues.
The simple act of taking a shower proves to be difficult and children often prefer a bath over a shower.
This is one area that is important to help your teen navigate through.
Or they prefer not to do it at all and have to be taught the importance of self care.
Because they don’t understand the importance of personal hygiene it can be a point of anxiety for them.
This has been one of the biggest battles at our house and we continue to work on this one.
Remember this is a marathon not a sprint and it could take years before your teen completely understands.
Growth In Teens
Remember that your teen will continue to grow over the next few years.
You will see their maturity level increase but to what level is individual.
Even though your teen grows in stature does not mean that their social and neurological growth has changed a whole lot.
They still want to be accepted so it is important to find activities they can be involved in outside of school.
This will help them develop friendships even if it is hard for them, it is what they desire most in the teen years.
If they are interested in sports, check into programs in your area that will give them the opportunity to participate in those activities.
Research camps in your area that your teen can participate in where they can spend time with similar peers.
Each ASD teen is different and it is important to spend time figuring out what works best for your child.
Helping them navigate the teen years so that they can grow a bit more independent.
Remember small wins are really huge in the world of Autism and they need to be celebrated.
Read more of my articles related to raising a child with autism HERE.