EPISODE 23: TEENAGING WITH AUTISM
“A Personal Look into Their World”
Autism is a an extremely complicated diagnosis, and when you add teenage hormones to the mix you sometimes get a new set of behaviors and possibly some challenges.
My son is 5 now, but I know he will be a teenager in a blink of an eye. I thought it was important to share with you a look into the world of a teenager on the spectrum. Words cannot even begin to describe just how proud I am to introduce today’s guest. Her name is Kennedy, and she’s my niece. I’ve watched Kennedy grow into such a beautiful and lovely lady. This girl has SO many strengths (many of which she may not even claim to have or may not even be aware of), but I’ve also seen the struggles; the complications that she experiences. So, I thought I would have a personal conversation with her, so I could better understand her views, her opinions…a look into her world. Please join me in a warm welcome to one of the pieces of my heart. My niece.
I speak with A LOT of parents whose children are entering into the teenage world, or have been in this world for a while. Here are some tips they have given me:
Don’t ask too many questions. I believe all teenagers in general would agree with this one, but for those on the spectrum, they usually hate being “quizzed”. This can make it difficult as a parent because we really want to be involved in our children’s lives. Well, sometimes they may feel like they’re being interrogated. Perhaps instead of asking “How was school?” or “What did you do today?”, ask them about their interests. Is there a subject they are studying in school that they are REALLY into? You might be surprised at how long they’ll want to talk about it.
Bring solid evidence to the table. Sometimes they have a hard time recognizing social rules, so maybe avoid saying things like “Because I said so” or “Because I’m your Mom or Dad”. Instead use facts, rules (or even LAWS) to back up why.
Don’t scold their behavior before understanding what it truly is. When a teenager with autism doesn’t respond to your questions, or walks away without saying a word, don’t assume they are being rude. Sometimes the social interaction is difficult, and maybe even painful for them. You don’t know what they experienced that day. They are self-regulating in a world every single day that can be loud, overwhelming, and the last thing they’re thinking about is whether or not it’s bothering you.
Text messaging might provide better communication. Most of us live on our phones, which is a good and bad thing, but think about it…sometimes it may be more relaxing for us, or more comfortable for us, than actually speaking on the phone. We’re able to collect our thoughts before responding, giving us more time to respond in a more appropriate way, perhaps. For people on the spectrum, this can be a huge plus.
Be patient. Yes, there might be things that they say and do that you find strange or different, but just know they are living in an overwhelming and complicated world and are just learning how to navigate it all.
Just be accepting, autism and everything. We were all teenagers at one point in time, and we were all struggling to find our identity, deal with our emotions, trying to figure out our place in this crazy world. Try entering their world instead of trying to force them into yours. You may be surprised at just how much beauty there is amidst the chaos.
Thank you so much for joining my niece and me today, and thank you for being a part of My Autism Tribe. Keep up the great work, and I’ll see you next week!