Raising teenagers can be difficult for anyone, but raising a teenager with autism presents unique challenges. As children become a teenagers, many parents grow concerned that their autism is getting more severe as their child becomes more resistant to them. However, it is a natural part of adolescence for any child to rebel against and desire independence from their parents. Adolescence affects every person differently, but there are certain issues you can expect to encounter with your teen on the autism spectrum. Really, these are problems that just come with the territory of raising a teen, but you will have to adapt your approach to meet your autistic child where they are.
The transition to high school is a difficult one. As teens grow older, the expectations of what they should be able to do independently increase exponentially. Teens on the spectrum will need greater support to cope with these new demands. It is important to be in communication with your child’s teachers from day one. High school teachers expect their students to be able to follow complex directions, keep track of due dates and assignments, transition between classrooms several times a day, and complete large scale projects. With the challenges people with autism face in regards to organization and executive functioning, you can imagine how overwhelming this can be. It is important to ask your child’s teachers exactly how they can support their new student. For example, the teacher may choose to break larger projects down to smaller assignments for your child. You will also have to give your adolescent that same homework help you have been giving them, despite the resistance they might have as they seek independence. If this presents a problem, you may consider hiring a tutor with experience with students with special needs.
You may remember (or have purposely forgotten?) what it was like when you hit puberty, and suddenly, you were in a very different body. The pre-teen and teenage years are a confusing time as you transition into adulthood, and your teen on the spectrum may need extra guidance through this. Your child may feel incredibly anxious about what is happening to them, so it is important to not only educate your teen about reproductive health, but also to directly apply it to their experience. If your child is enrolled in a health class in school, they may understand the material, but not how this information is applied to them and the world around them. You may also have to help them understand what is and what is not appropriate to discuss in social situations.
Additionally, standards for personal hygiene change when your body changes. Now, teens must shower regularly, and may also need to shave. They may not understand the link between grooming and health, or how it affects their social acceptance. It is important to discuss this issue with your teen, and you may have to make extra efforts to remind them to maintain their personal hygiene.
The social hierarchy of high school is difficult to navigate, and teens with autism are more likely to feel socially isolated. The desire to be accepted by peers is universal, and teens on the spectrum are no different. Encourage your teen to spend time with peers outside of school, and to use their interests to connect with others. If your child is particularly fascinated by basketball statistics, for example, they may be able to use this to connect with other teens who like basketball.
Raising a teen with autism is a challenge, but you are not alone. When you need resources on autism, you have a community here at Normal Life Inc.