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It is difficult for autistic children at any age, but for teenagers with autism it can be especially challenging. Autism is a disorder that manifests itself with the individual having trouble communicating and managing a variety of social situations. Coupled with this, there are the repetitive behaviors and difficulty with emotional control.
The teen years are perhaps the most social time of our lives. It is a time where teenagers are learning about themselves, and are moving rapidly toward adulthood. This is an incredibly social time where what you say and how you act are very important in the eyes of your peers. This is also precisely the time where autistic teens face some of the most stressful situations of their young lives.
Like any teenager, they need help in dealing with their increasing sexuality. Some people find that as they reach their teenage years their behaviors improve. However, for others their behavior can worsen as a direct result of the tension and confusion associated with this difficult time.
It can be at this age that most teenagers become aware how different they are from their peers. They may notice that they don’t have many or any friends and that they aren’t dating or planning for a career. For some, these feelings of not fitting in can motivate them to learn more social skills to better fit in, for others it means they retreat into themselves even more.
There are different levels of autism. Many people believe that the depiction of an autistic man by Dustin Hoffman in the movie “Rain Man” pretty much sums up all people with autism. There are cases of autism that are along the lines of Hoffman’s character in the film, but there are just as many, if not more, cases of high-functioning autistic people. High functioning autistic people can be difficult to detect at times. In many cases, unless you know them personally, you may not be able to tell that they have autism.
So what is life like for an autistic teen? This is a difficult question to answer. Again, it depends heavily on the severity of autism present in the teenager. High-functioning autistic teens attend regular and honors classes, are involved in school activities, and despite some social difficulties, are often difficult to distinguish from other kids their age. On the other hand, severely autistic teens have a much more difficult time. Many require special schooling and individual care. The vast majority of severely autistic teens are unable to take care of themselves and rely on others to meet their basic needs.
Since autism causes a problem in communication, most autistic teens do not learn how to behave according to sociological norms through experience. They need to be taught the proper way to behave. The inability to fit into proper social situations can be traumatic and lead to a tendency to disengage from a certain situation, whether it is related to play, school, or work, and simply leave the situation. This can make it difficult to raise an autistic teen, especially if they display severe symptoms.
There are tons of resources on the web and in libraries that can provide you with more information on autism and the teenage years. If you have an autistic teen living at home, you know what a challenge it is to deal with the tremendous problems in communication. Oftentimes, it may seem like your own child does not want to be close to you, but you need to realize that it is the result of their autism rather than a reflection on you as a parent.
Clearly, for teenagers with autism this period can be extremely difficult. If your child is either low or high functioning, there are a variety of resources available through your local school system. Schools are mandated to provide services for autistic and other developmentally challenged individuals. It is a good idea to discuss the routines and procedures you have in place with officials from school so that the transition between home and school goes as smoothly as possible to provide your teenager with as much help and support as possible during this time.
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