Parents often have difficulty recognizing the difference between variations in “normal behavior” versus “Aspergers-related behavior.” In reality, the line between ‘normal’ and ‘Aspergers behavior’ is not always clear – usually it is a matter of expectation.
A fine line can often divide normal from Aspergers teen behavior, in part because what is normal depends upon the teen's level of development, which can vary among teens of the same age. Development can be uneven, too, with a teen's social development lagging behind his intellectual growth, or vice versa. In addition, normal teen behavior is in part determined by the particular situation and time, as well as by the teen's own particular family values, expectations, and cultural or social background.
Understanding your Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) teen's developmental progress is necessary in order to interpret, accept or adapt his behavior (as well as your own). Remember, teens have great individual variations of temperament, development and behavior – especially when they have to deal with the Aspergers condition.
Your responses, as a parent, are guided by whether you see the adolescent's behavior as a problem. Frequently, parents over-interpret or over-react to a minor, normal short-term change in the teen’s behavior. At the other extreme, moms and dads may ignore or downplay a serious problem. Also, they may seek quick, simple answers to what are, in fact, complex Aspergers teen problems. All of these responses to teen behavior may create more difficulty or prolong a resolution.
Adolescent behavior that moms and dads tolerate, disregard or consider acceptable differs from one family to another. Some of the differences come from the parent’s unique upbringing. They may have had very strict parents themselves, and the expectations of their kids follow accordingly. Some behavior is considered a problem when parents feel that others are judging them for their teen's behavior. This leads to inconsistent responses from the parent, who may tolerate behavior at home that he/she would not tolerate in public.
Sometimes moms and dads feel so hurt by their Aspergers teen’s behavior that they respond by returning the “disrespect” – which is a mistake. Teens know that they still need their parents even if they can't admit it. The rollercoaster they put the parent on is also the one they're feeling internally. As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.
But no one's saying your Aspergers teenager should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you, for example. When this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. By letting your teenager know that you're here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he'll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while.
My Aspergers Teen: Discipline for Defiant Aspergers Teens