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Coming to Terms with Your Diagnosis: Tips for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“How do I help my 13 year old son to come to terms with his diagnosis of 'high functioning' autism and help him to understand that it is not the end of the world?”

So many times in life, we focus on the negative. It’s raining, getting up early, taking a test, and spilling a glass of milk are things that happen all the time. None of these are true negatives, but our perspective makes them worse than reality.

You can turn each of these examples into a positive with a shift of thinking: thick green grass, seeing the sun rise, showing off skills, and a floor that needed a good mopping anyway are all positive outcomes to the same situations.

High-functioning autism (HFA) is definitely not the worst thing in the world. There are many positive qualities to be found in a teenager with the disorder. They’re smart, so knowledgeable, and have an amazing memory.

Young people on the autism spectrum have an intense sense of right and wrong and desire to follow the rules. In the same sense, they are extremely honest. And although they may have problems focusing on things like reading, spelling, or chores, they have an incredible ability to focus on a subject of interest until they know all there is to know about that subject.

Sit down with your son and make a list of his positive qualities. I’ve probably listed several here to get you started. Keep in mind that he may attempt to phrase something as a negative. Help him see the positive in as many qualities as possible. His list may look like this:
  • Almost always tells the truth
  • Almost never breaks the rules
  • Can talk about fun things that happened when he was 3 years old
  • Knows everything there is to know about ____________ (insert special interest)
  • Remembers everyone’s birthday and phone numbers
  • Tries to make sure everyone else follows the rules
  • Very intelligent

Talk to your son about any weaknesses he specifically brings up. Remind him that none of us are perfect. We all have weaknesses, but we also have the ability to seek help to control those weaknesses. Explain to him that the extra help and therapies he receives at school are to help him gain more control over his weaknesses.

Share a few printed resources with your son. He is old enough to read books and magazines written by - and for - teens his age. “Jay Grows an Alien” by Caroline Levine is a good example. This novel is written for the youngster with ASD as well as his peers, and shows kids that all of us have differences and are unique and special in our own way.

Finally, let your son know that he is the person he was intended to be, and that he is loved just the way he is. He has HFA, but he is NOT his disorder. He is an intelligent, unique, and special 13 year old young man with a very bright future ahead!



Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


•    Anonymous said… if he likes Pokemon, remind him the inventor was an aspie..... or sit him in front of one of the many sci-fi movies, shows etc brought to us thanks to MANY aspies.... or even point out how computing as we know it today is because of aspies like Bill Gates..... THEN remind him that people like me are counting on kids like him to make this world a BETTER place :)
•    Anonymous said… It is just a part of how he is. My son was about that age when he figured out he had Asperger's and he said he doesn't want a pill or anything to take the Asperger's away since it is what makes him him. Maybe he could get involved in Special Olympics as he will see there are so many others who are worse off than him(might make him feel better about having Aspergers).
•    Anonymous said… It is not the end, it is the beginning of how to understand the world and be a happier person!
•    Anonymous said… Marlene he is a HUGE Pokemon fan!!!!! he plays it now and its his main interest at this time;-) thats for letting me know that! I will be sure to pass that info off to him as well:-) Told him about Bill Gates too already:-) @ Marji my son is also hearing impaired and wears hearing aides..I have thought about special olympics for him..he is not very athletic but would love to get into Fencing lessons he is awesome with a sword;-) thank you!
•    Anonymous said… My son is 9 and is not doing well with this:-( he is very oppositional and thinks its something bad..I have tried telling him over and over all these things mentioned here.. even showed him all the famous people in the world who had Aspergers..hopefully he will understand when he is a little older thanks for the post.
•    Anonymous said… Take him to meet other Aspies!
•    Anonymous said… There is a fantastic book aimed at young children to early teens about what
*   Anonymous said… Aspergers is and how they are still amazing. It even explains how they think differently and what it means to them and how to tell others. The title is: What does it mean to me? : a workbook explaining self awareness and life lessons to the child or youth with high functioning autism or Aspergers. Structured teaching ideas for home and school. writen by Faherty, Catherine. There are also some great books by Dr Tony Attwood as well.
•    Anonymous said… Well said!.. My son is twelve & and with each and everyday our understanding improves...
•    Anonymous said… When we told our eleven year old son that he had Aspergers he cried and asked how to get rid of it. I explained to him that he couldn't, but it did not mean there was something 'wrong' with him. I focused on all the positives that were mentioned in the article and reminded him that he is gifted in many ways that many other people are not and that God made us all unique and different for reason. He has accepted and embraced his diagnosis and is much more aware of his behavior and we talk about ways to overcome some the obstacles he faces.

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