What the Future Holds for Your Teenager on the Autism Spectrum

"I would like to know what to expect from a high functioning autistic child in the teenage years. My son was diagnosed 2 years ago. I know they say that they can suffer from this and that, but what is the long-term goal, what can we expect, what not to expect?"

Young people with ASD level 1 or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often have a difficult time between the ages of 13 and 19. They may be socially excluded and face rejection by their peers if they act differently from others. They want to be accepted and liked, but often don’t know how to behave and communicate appropriately. School is demanding and they long for friends. The goal for your HFA son is to make it through the teen years with the following:
  • his self-esteem intact
  • at least a friend or two
  • knowledge that his family loves him
  • a high school diploma
There are some teens that manage to navigate these years successfully because they don’t care about peer pressure and focus on a special interest of their own (e.g., chess or computers). So, encouraging your son to develop a special interest may help him at this time of life. A special interest may encourage friendships with other teens that have the same interest as well, making it easier to talk to and make friends with others.
==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with High-Functioning Autism

A big problem for HFA teens is that often they don’t care about fads, clothing, celebrities, and teen communication devices (e.g., cell phones or Facebook). Your son’s interests may be more appropriate for younger children. Boys may be rejected if they are not interested in sports. Some of these issues can be resolved, though.

Help your son become aware of teen fads and how to talk about sports, celebrities, rituals, and school events. Encourage him to leave text messages for and arrange social engagements with peers. Perhaps he could join school clubs, especially those that focus on his special interest. Explain to your teen that he does not have to tell everyone that he has the disorder. He may enjoy talking with other HFA teens in internet chat rooms.

Your son may ignore personal hygiene and wear clothes and a haircut that are not in style. Find a same sex friend who will help him choose appropriate clothes to wear. Monitor your teen’s hygiene and create reminder notes or charts for him about daily bathing, tooth brushing, etc. Reward him for good hygiene, if that’s what it takes!

“Special needs” teens are sometimes not very well-informed about sex and dating. Boys may be very na├»ve or too forward with girls. Hormones cause rampant emotions, which HFA teens can’t handle. If they get angry, they may physically attack others or have a “melt down.”

You must teach your teen about sex. Provide books for him to read. Choose books that aren’t overly “clinical.” Be specific and detailed about safe sex. Never be judgmental or punish him when he confides in you; instead, counsel him. Boys need to be told that masturbating should take place only at home, in private. Teens on the autism spectrum often respond to “rules” by obeying them. Establish some rules for your son (e.g., “We have a rule in our house that teenagers should not have sex because they are too young to handle the emotions and problems that may occur”).

Some HFA teens develop problems with drugs and alcohol because they are eager to do what other teens do. They are not able to determine a “good” crowd from a “bad” crowd. Other teens may take advantage of your son’s eagerness to be liked and convince him to buy and/or take alcohol or drugs. You must always know where your son is, who he is with, what he is supposed to be doing, and the characters of the other teens he hangs around. Emphasize that drugs and alcohol are illegal. Teens on the spectrum are “rule-oriented,” so this may help your son avoid problems.

HFA teens may have school problems because of the difficulty in dealing with more than one teacher. Each classroom is a different environment, which may be confusing. Some teachers may be hostile. Some assignments may be overwhelming. Keep in close touch with your son’s teachers. A placement into Special Education may be necessary when a teen on the spectrum enters middle school. Some tens on the spectrum need special classes even though they didn’t before.

Make sure your son has a “safe place” at school where he can share emotions with a teacher, nurse, guidance counselor, or psychologist. If your son experiences harassment and/or rejection at school and the staff does not help, a special education placement or a therapeutic boarding school can give professionals a chance to assist your teen academically and socially.

Suicide may become a possibility for a few teens with autism. If you have any worries about this, get help immediately from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Use reasoning and negotiation with your son, instead of orders. If possible, give him two choices rather than telling him what he must do in a situation. He will have more control over his life and feel less resentment. He will be less likely to listen to you (like all teens!) at this age and may exhibit anger and impatience. He may hate school and resist everything you want him to do. Depression is common. If these problems occur, your son may need counseling.

Most autistic teens learn to drive successfully because they obey the rules! Have your son carry a cell phone and a card that explains the disorder. Teach him to call you in a crisis and to give the card to any police officer who stops him. Role play with him so he knows what to do and say if stopped by an officer.

Some teenagers on the autism spectrum do well in summer jobs in an area of special interest or with little contact with the public. Occupational therapy will help your son get ready for adulthood. Special programs are available that teach job and living skills. This will reduce his dependency on you. And above all, ask for help from professionals when you or your son need it.

==> Has your child on the autism spectrum been experiencing a lot of sadness lately? If so, here are a bunch of suggestions to assist in the matter...

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

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

Here’s what other parents have had to say:

• Anonymous said… All of this is happening with my 15-year-old HFA. It can be heartbreaking for the parent. I just take it day by day.
• Anonymous said… Great article
• Anonymous said… Great article! My HFA is 39 & married now but that article was spot on with ways to help them through it.
• Anonymous said… I have a 16-year-old son that has not been diagnosed yet, but it is very obvious to us he is an HFA. Personally, I am very happy he is not interested in the 'teen fads", makes life much easier in my opinion. He could use a few friends though.
• Anonymous said… I will be homeschooling my son next year. I knew this would start happening. Just glad I have the option to homeschool:)
• Anonymous said… Nice article. My son who is now 17 has faced some of those issues and through counseling has been able to overcome many difficulties. He had a much rougher time in the early teens. Now he is more comfortable in his own skin. He doesn't necessarily follow trends in clothes, has let his hair grow. Still needs reminders with hygiene every now and then, but I believe he is on the road to independence. I want my son to have as beat normal life as possible, I don't want his condition to limit his potentials and who he will be. He can achieve greatness because he is a good kid. He gives me a hard time, but what teenager doesn't. I take it as a phase and guide him in all I can. His school has been very supportive and his peers accept him for who he is. Even when people snicker about him, he pays them no mind. I do like the advice about the HFA card in the wallet. He is learning how to drive and this is a good idea for when he will be driving by hi self and gets stopped by the police. Thanks for sharing this article.
• Anonymous said… Thank you for the article. My son turns 13 this year, I am sure I will be putting this info to good use.
•    Anonymous said... My son Liam is now 14. The best thing I did was have a behavior specialist come to the house once a week, which insurance covers, to help with things throughout the years like facial recognition, conversation with others, even just sitting in his chair and not crawling under the table when he got upset. He grew, matured, and learned, slower than the other kids yes, but still slow and steady learned to manage his behaviors. Now that he is a teenager he decided to do virtual school at home because the business of school, hallways, and other kids faired to distracting for him. He is doing great. Good grades, on a bowling team, has a few friends. Best thing you can do is join you child in something if they are not noise sensitive. It gives them a sense of belonging to a team. Liam started when he was 7 and is still on the team. He does his own laundry, vaccums his room, manages his schedule, takes care of his cat. Can't wait till he can get a job. So proud of him. So to answer your question an hour later lol you have lots of great stuff to look forward to if you get the right help. Also the behavior specialist made me feel like I had someone on my side and I wasn't alone. Relieved some of the stress.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter uses a note book to communicate with teachers, when she feels she can't talk or ask something. She has a brilliant sen support net work at school too and I have one main person who communicates everything to me. Her mood swings can change so quickly that each day is different, just make sure you keep talking to each other x
•    Anonymous said... I found Social Thinking books for teens excellent resource for your teen and you to read (very appealing to teens for how to on social stuff while insightful for parents) An advocate for you and student at school is huge. I truly enjoy communicating with my son and his perspective. Reason, logic, and showing you respect his viewpoint, but he must do the same. Clear, consistent logic. Plus if you want to hear about your teen's day tell them about yours, a chance to walk him through social situations at school.
•    Anonymous said... expect nothing, take each day as it comes and keep clear communication with him as much as possible, try to get him to tell you his feelings and opinions on things so you'll have an idea of how he's perceiving the world, make sure school are on board and check with him which teachers he trusts the most, these are the ones you need the most contact with so you can be part of the same team in helping him, as for hormones, expect the same as you'd expect from any teen. 

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