If there’s a stage in a person’s life that parents are most worried about, it would definitely be the adolescent years. This is the very point of a person’s development where hormonal factors start to kick in and become a major player in some life-changing aspects of one’s son or daughter. The pressure even doubles when a family receives a diagnosis of autism from the doctor, especially when the parents have little to no knowledge of the disorder. Knowing the rebellious nature of teenagers, one can only guess what would happen when autism and hormones interplay with each other. That is why it is of utmost importance that parents and guardians should read as many credible sources of information they can to deal with autism in teenagers with the best possible approach.
Teenagers with HFA and Asperger Syndrome
With the progress in medical research since the first discovery and official coinage of the term Autism in the medical literature, the number of known autistic teens have increased through the years. That is commonly due to the rising number of diagnosed teens, whose autism disorders were not detected in childhood, in addition to those autistic children who have already grown up and are now entering adolescence. It is a common ground in the context of Autism Spectrum Disorder that teens who were not diagnosed in their childhood years have a high-functioning type of autism or Asperger Syndrome. Being in the upper end of the spectrum, such teens will be able to overcome daily life challenges and needs and can manage to act and respond appropriately according to given situations, just like what normal teenagers would do. The difference, however, is that teens with HFA or Asperger’s will have difficulty reading social cues and communicate with a group of people, even maintaining eye contact and composure. They also feel the need to follow fixed and patterned habits or routines. Aside from these, there’s really not much difference between normal individuals and teens with HFA or Asperger’s. Treatment for teens with HFA or Asperger’s are different from children, and although encouraged, are not really required.
Teenagers Diagnosed since Childhood
There is a common misconception in parents with regard to their autistic teenager’s behaviour, claiming that their condition gets worse. Although autism is a developmental disorder, the symptoms exhibited by people diagnosed with it don’t get worse in a typical scenario. Experts have clarified that such issue with teenagers has risen because of their rebellious nature caused by hormonal activities that could heighten their emotions and stress levels. As such, parents are advised to not be too strict with their teenage sons and daughters who were already diagnosed with autism since childhood. Giving them a sense of independence in small matters like scheduling, house rules, and the likes would help alleviate the issue on noncompliance.
The Future for Autistic Teenagers
What’s in store for autistic teenagers in the future that lies ahead of them? While it may be true that the study on autism from adolescence to adulthood still has a long way to go, there are already indications of improving conditions throughout the remaining lifespan of an autistic teenager. In the behavioural aspect, teenagers will see improvement in their management of emotional responses and actions as they mature, with lesser and lesser occurrence of repetitive actions. Teenagers will also most likely improve their basic skills for daily living as they eventually reach adulthood.
However, there are still challenges and health issues that may come along the way especially with the developing complexity of the adolescence stage. Teenagers are at risk of experiencing seizures but these are not epileptic in nature. Anxiety, coupled with a sleeping disorder can lead to insomnia and other nervous disorders.
Helping Autistic Teens Cope in School
Once they reach high school, autistic teenagers will find themselves in another battleground. Classes will be dispersed through hourly schedules, specialized books and homework will pile up and classroom instructions will become more complex. The elevation of tasks would likewise need more complex skills, an area where autistic teens would most likely fall short. It is in this stage where support from family is much needed by autistic teenagers in order to succeed with their educational hurdles. Parents can help their teen with planning and organizing, from creating schedules to carrying out specific school activities. Parents can also make a guide for their autistic teen to follow as well as check on homework and projects that need to be done. The most important thing is that parents should always establish continued communication with their teen on school-related stuff. However, problems may arise when the autistic teenager would tend to reject the parent’s help and as such, parents are expected to have the biggest patience and understanding they can muster as they deal with it.
The family can also communicate with the school to help them provide a proper learning environment for their autistic teen. Teachers can help simplify classroom instructions to autistic students and divide projects into several thresholds of completion, providing necessary schedules along with it. However, the level of support that autistic students can get in high school would most likely diminish as they climb higher in grade level as educators try to make students more independent, resourceful and practical. In the end, the support department would still fall to the autistic teen’s family, supporting the student all the way.
Areas of Consideration for Parents with Autistic Teens
As parents, it is always of your best interest to see your child succeed, even if they are suffering from a condition such as autism. If you have an autistic teen in your household, it is important that you don’t overlook these areas for the sake of your teenager.
- Puberty – As they mature into adults, teenagers should be taught well about the concept of reproduction especially those with autism who may understand the biological mechanisms and terminologies in class but don’t really get the part on how it affects them and their body. Teaching them about sexual development would also eliminate confusion caused by changes happening in their body.
- Grooming and Hygiene – Even normal teenagers can have trouble keeping personal hygiene, how much more those who are suffering from autism? It is necessary to train your teen the importance of proper grooming and personal hygiene while dealing with sensory issues to help them become presentable individuals.
- Good Company – Everyone of us needs at least a single friend whom we can trust our secrets and discuss our issues. The same goes to autistic teens who long for companionship even if they are socially challenged. Find your teen a good friend or a circle of friends that you think is nurturing and safe.