HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Parenting Teens on the Autism Spectrum: Changes in Adolescence

"My high functioning autistic son will become an official teenager next week (13th birthday). Any advice on what parents should do differently with an HFA teen vs. a child?"

First of all, there's no need to worry. Children with High-Functioning Autism and Aspergers eventually go through adolescence on their way toward becoming strong, focused adults -- regardless of the misinformation you may have been fed. While adolescence is a difficult time for all teens, it can easily be much worse for those dealing with HFA. With the right education and support, most of these young people go on to graduate from high school.


Because they tend to be loners and have odd mannerisms, HFA teens can be shunned from popular groups of kids -- and can be the focus of teasing. Even so, these teens develop feelings for others they become attracted to, though they can’t always express their feelings correctly. This can lead to frustration and anger in the HFA teen who develops his/her first tentative relationships. They are more likely to face rejection from their peers and be left with a low self-esteem as a result.

Often, a teen on the autism spectrum fares best with one or two close friends with whom they can practice adolescent social skills and "growing up" behaviors. Even one relatively close relationship can make the difference between a depressed, awkward teen -- and one who is beginning to learn valuable social skills with a select few others.

Parents and family may need to help facilitate relationships between their "special needs" teenager and other teens his own age. Offering to have other teens overnight or taking their teen to an activity with one or two other acquaintances can help facilitate closer connections between their child and others his own age.

Having a teen "love experience" is often much more difficult for teens on the spectrum. Their tendency to want to be alone comes into conflict with their desire to be close to another person. Psychotherapy and family support can go a long way toward helping a teen with HFA get through the difficult adolescent time.

In summary:
  • With the right education and support, most HFA teens go on to graduate from high school. 
  • Teens on the spectrum fare best with one or two close friends with whom they can practice adolescent social skills.
  • Parents may need to help facilitate relationships between their teenager and other teens his own age.
  • Psychotherapy and family support can go a long way toward helping a teen with special needs to get through the difficult adolescent time.

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