You may be surprised to learn that your friend’s teenage son is diagnosed with autism, even though you are quite well aware that this neurodevelopment disorder occurs mostly in young children aged 3 and below. The truth is, ASD is the kind of disorder that if not detected at an early age, may continue to persist even until adulthood, where the chance of it being uncovered increases due to the complex nature of the symptoms which only get more evident as the person grows and reaches higher developmental milestones. When a person is diagnosed with autism only at their teenage or adulthood life phase, it is probably because the autism features they manifested while they were still a toddler were mistaken to be natural childhood characteristics. Verbal challenges, strong fascination to specific toys and stuff, aversive behavior towards new faces and sensory sensitivities that are exhibited by a child are most likely to be believed by parents as common characteristics which would give them no immediate and strong reason to be worried about. However, when these problems persist as the child grows older, it is only then that the parents will begin to suspect that there’s something wrong about their son’s or daughter’s development. Today, there are many cases of autism diagnoses being given to teenagers and adults due to the difficulty of detecting autism features in early stages of development. If you have a teenager in your family, it might help a lot to know what symptoms can be observed by your parental instincts to ease the worry and aid in possible autism diagnosis.

Social Aspects

As we grow older, the need to socialize also becomes more apparent. Hence, when teenagers exhibit social difficulties that are not characteristic of their age, such features might be indicative of autism. These problems may include both verbal and nonverbal communication.

        Verbal Communication Signs

  • Seems to show a lot of enthusiasm in talking a specific topic of interest, and it’s clear that they don’t want to change the topic of the conversation. Doing so will lead to an obvious display of disinterest.
  • Their manner of speaking might be different than normal, such as the use of a strange accent or intonation that is not contextually required. They may speak in a monotonous way, or the complete opposite.
  • Cannot easily pick up and follow all the details when provided with a set of instructions or orders, especially those that require different steps to be followed.
  • Cannot easily observe proper pace of conversation and taking turns, which can make them spend all the time talking and not give others the chance to talk.
  • Take statements too literally, and finds it hard to comprehend abstract and vague sentences or phrases. When you say “Get a hold of yourself”, they might mistake this as a statement that needs physical activity.
  • They might also have an extensive vocabulary but this leads them to prefer using more formal and traditional speech.

        Nonverbal Communication Signs

  • Finds it hard to make eye contact with the other person while speaking and uses a few number of gestures to emphasize their views.
  • Has difficulties reading facial expressions, intonation and body language from other people which lead to a lack of empathy or appropriate response to jokes and sarcastic remarks.

        Other Social Aspect Signs

  • Has few or no friends, and would prefer to spend their time alone.
  • Finds it hard to understand the basic concepts and rules of friendship.
  • Finds it easier to mingle with people of younger age, and may invade other’s privacy without knowing it
  • May have a hard time adjusting their behavior and actions in different situations


Behavioral Aspects

  • May develop repetitive behaviors such as lining up or stacking objects, and stimming or the repetition of specific body motions such as flapping of hands, repeating short phrases, pulling hair, and listening to the same song on repeat.
  • Has strange and narrow interests that are obsessive in nature, such as memorizing scientific names of organisms but is not really interested in zoology or any branch of biology.
  • Has a very strong attachment to certain objects, to the point where they carry such object wherever they go.
  • Does not respond to changes very well, and has a very rigid tendency to follow routines. Such restrictions can be as trivial as taking the same seat in the dining room or classroom, to bigger matters such as going for the same weekend activities.
  • Become oversensitive to sensory stimuli like bright lights and loud noises which can trigger meltdowns if not addressed.
  • They can also have strong needs for different sensory stimuli, such as deep pressure, vibrations, and flickering of lights.
  • Other Important Signs
  • Can get easily overwhelmed by a lot of factors, leading to the development anxiety issues.
  • Insomnia and the difficulty adjusting their sleeping time according to situations. They might find it hard to stay awake late at night or sleep longer until noon.
  • With the heightened hormonal activities at this stage of development, autistic teens may also develop depression caused by thinking too much about other people’s opinions about them.
  • Eating disorder is also a common sign, either due to depression and anxiety or caused by sensory issues related to food.
  • Can get easily frustrated and agitated due to simple reasons, exhibiting aggressive behavior.
  • Fear of going to school or other public places.

Like all other guidelines for a possible autism diagnosis, a teenager’s case is no different. There must be the presence of more than one or two indications before you can have sufficient reasons to seek an expert diagnosis. Aside from this, there’s a possibility that these signs may not lead to an autism diagnosis but to related disorders instead. Whatever the diagnosis may lead, it is important for parents of teenagers have their son or daughter tested especially if they seek a valid explanation to life-changing issues.