Welcoe to another day in the A to Z Challenge in which I focus on autism. Today’s post is all about growing up. After all, autistic children grow up to become autistic teens and eventually autistic adults. Growing up isn’t easy for anyone, but it is harder for autistic young people. Last year, I already wrote a post on what it was like for me growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.
Growing up brings many changes to the lives of autistic young people. For example, social and academic expectations increase rapidly especially in middle and high school. This is why some autistic children don’t get properly diagnosed till they reach puberty and start falling apart. I cannot stress the importance of a proper diagnosis enough, so if your child has difficulty meeting the increased developmental expectations of growing up, it is possible that autism or another neurodevelopmental disorder is the problem and you may want to get them assessed.
Once your child is properly diagnosed, or even if they are not, it is important to support them as they mature. Help them adjust to the changes of puberty. For example, their body will start to change and they will need to be extra aware of their personal hygiene. Since autistics have a hard time handling change, as a parent, you may want to educate them early on about what’s happening to their bodies and how they need to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, due to their delayed social and emotional development, autistic young teens might not feel ready for “grown-up talk”. It is important to seek the balance between overwhelming your child with “mature” information and not preparing them for what will inevitably come.
I cannot begin to give comprehensive advice on parenting teens with autism. There are, however, a few good books available on this subject. For example, Parenting a Teen or Young Adult with Asperger Syndrome (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) by Brenda Boyd is full of tips on parenting higher-functioning autistic teens. Growing Up on the Spectrum by Claire LaZebnik and Lynn Kern Koegel is also a good book.