Advocating for Your Teenager on the Autism Spectrum


"My child [high functioning autistic] is 16 and I feel there are times when I will be advocating for him when he should be doing it for himself. Any advise where to draw the line?"


As moms and dads, we sometimes struggle when our kids reach the age of emerging independence. We must begin to let go a little and allow them to be self sufficient in their early teens in order to grow and develop into self-supporting adults. 
In addition, teenagers with ASD (high-functioning autism) can often feel intimidated, automatically stepping aside and allowing a parent or trusted adult to make important decisions, even when they are completely capable.

Helping your youngster on the spectrum begin to accept some responsibility does not have to be difficult. If your child is to become an effective self-advocate, he will need to be aware of the following points:

1. Your son should participate in counseling and group therapy to help keep himself focused. Counseling sessions are useful for people with autism. This is a place where your child can talk about how his strengths and weaknesses make him feel. In group therapy, your son can learn new strategies for coping with social situations.

2. Your son should become active in his IEP process and know his written goals. Your child should be encouraged to take part in his IEP meetings. Once your son acknowledges his own strengths and weaknesses, his input can help the team set reachable goals.

3. Your son must recognize his weaknesses. Just as with his strengths, your child must also be mindful of his weaknesses. People with ASD sometimes struggle with language based academics, for example. Social skills and sensory problems may be weak areas for your child.

4. Your son must know his strengths. People on the spectrum are often gifted with an above average I.Q. It is possible that your child excels in one or more academic subjects. They also usually have an intense interest outside of academics, such as music or computers. Knowing his own strengths will help your child gain much needed self-confidence. 

ASD is nothing of which to be ashamed. It is a part of who your child is, but it does not define him. Once your son realizes this, and that he is capable and intelligent, he should be able to step up and take on some of the responsibility of self-advocacy. 
In the meantime, remember, your child is still a youngster. Make the switch slowly by pushing gently. And foremost, your son still needs you.
What other parents have had to say about this issue:
•    Anonymous said... my son is going to be 15 with Aspergers, I feel like I will always have to take care of him..but I pray he will be able to succeed one day.
•    Anonymous said... Your child is always your child no matter the age but yes, u will know when the time is right. In the meantime we just have to keep showing them the right way :-) some learn fast and some take longer. Best wishes!
•    Anonymous said... They will let you know when they want more responsibility. My son is 24 and he does not want me taking him everywhere anymore, he still has problems remembering things from doctor visits and sometimes ends up needing a ride home, but he wants to try it for himself first.
•    Anonymous said... I've been wondering about this too. My husband says I'm fighting all of our son's battles and I need to let up, but I can't. Am I wrong for that?
•    Anonymous said... If you're fighting ALL - then perhaps.
•    Anonymous said... Maybe my wording is poor. I'm fighting all of the battles with the school, family, other adults, and Drs. When I see issues with other kids and he's not able to handle it himself, THEN I step in. But I don't consider the minor things with the other kids to be battles.
•    Anonymous said... Yes, I too am guilty of fighting my 14 year old son's battles. I sometimes think he "expects" it of me. He is my only child and I'm having a very difficult time of letting go of things that he should be doing solo. I want him succeed in life, but not because I help him with everything. This includes schoolwork as well as social situations.
•    Anonymous said... There is a fine line between "advocating" and "over-protective parenting".
•    Anonymous said... Tricky job being a parent. All you can do is your best. Maybe try standing back a bit and jumping in when it is obvious he can't handle it. (easier said than done, I'm guilty of being too protective).
•    Anonymous said... There is nothing wrong with advocating for your child, as long as you are also teaching him to advocate for himself when you aren't or can't be there. I think the key to this question is "I feel there are times when I will be advocating for him when he should be doing it for himself." I have never needed to rely on my instincts more in my life than I do when parenting my boys (who are all at different points on the spectrum). If YOU feel he should be advocating for himself, then take a step back and figure out why he isn't. If it's because he doesn't have the skills, then how can you help him get them? If it's because you're doing it for him, then stop it :P If it's because he's not capable of advocating for himself and never will be, then figure out who can advocate for him when you can't and get it set up. But clearly, the parent in this particular instance thinks it's time to do something different, which to me says it's time to do something different :D

More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…


Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...


Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…


Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…


Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...


Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...
A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

Click here for the full article...

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