Tag Archives: Teens

Book Review: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

As I said when I wrote my summer reading list, I have been wanting to read Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (2014) ever since I discovered it. I finally got down to finishing it this week.

Beyond Magenta is a series of interviews with transgender or genderqueer teens. There are interviews with two trans girls, two trans guys and two people who identify as something inbetween male and female (genderqueer, genderfluid or as one of them calls it, genderfuck). One of the genderqueer teens is also intersex. They have polycystic ovary syndrome, which I until reading their story didn’t know is an intersex condition, since most people with PCOS are thought of as female.

I think I know quite a bit about gender diversity for someone who is thought of as and identifies as female (cisgender). Even so, I learned some new things about trans and genderqueer issues, some of which I now see as quite basic. For example, as is apparent in many of the stories, gender identity has little to do with sexual orientation. It only has to do with it in that many trans people start out identifying as gay or lesbian before they realize they’re truly straight but trans. It is interesting in this sense that many of the people interviewd found that their parents or friends were okay with them being gay or lesbian, but not with them being trans.

The teens interviewed in this book faced a variety of reactions to their gender identity. Some were also totally cool with themselves from the start while others faced significant depression. Of course, in order to want to be interviewed for a book on trans issues, even anonymously, you need to have come to terms with your gender identity to an extent. For example, Mariah, who insisted on being pseudonymized, calls herself not a success story, but she still appears quite confident. This could of course be a fa├žade.

Overall, I liked learning about teens’ trans and genderqueer experiences through Beyond Magenta. The book wasn’t written in some kind of inspirational, oh-look-at-that kind of way, or at least I didn’t perceive it as such. Kuklin did a nice job allowing each teen to express themselves as they wanted.

Growing Up: Autism and the Teenage Years #AtoZChallenge

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.

What Does Unconditional Love Mean?

On the World of Psychology blog, Eve Hogan wrote an interesitng article about unconditional love. This article got me thinking about the attitude we have towards people who harmed us, and the attitude people we harmed have to us. It is often thought that family members and spouses unconditionally love each other, but what if a parent becomes abusive towards their child, a child towards their parents, or one spouse towards the other?

Hogan says that spouses and family members love each other unconditionally with their hearts, but do not necessarily and should not accept everything their child, parent or spouse does to them. I can relate to this in my personal life, having grown up in a family that loved me with their hearts but did not accept everything I did. I still struggle with this, having a hard time distinguishing conditional love from accepting the person but not the behavior.

Hogan says that spouses really should view their vows as saying that they will love each other with their hearts no matter what, but will only stay together so long as the other doesn’t become irresponsible with money or time, doesn’t lie and doesn’t cheat. This leaves a lot of room for unlikeable behavior which doesn’t warrant a divorce. Similarly the integrity agreement Hogan discusses with teens only mentions not harming their family (or anyone, for that matter). This is where I struggle. I do know that setting limits on unlikeable but relatively harmless behavior such as laziness regarding schoolwork, is okay. This is quite different from not accepting the child or teen into the family home.

There is a grey area, especially with teens and young adults, where parents can decide their child’s life is no longer their responsibility. In this sense, there is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional caretaking. I know that married spousess and parents of children or teens under eighteen (or 21, in some situations) have a duty of care, but, once spouses divorce or children reach age eighteen, unconditional love becomes quite another thing than catering to each other’s needs no matter what.

Teaching Your Autistic Teen About Hygiene

Many autistic people have trouble with self-help skills, like clothing and personal hygiene. I hear on many autism parent blogs that their child cannot bruth their teeth independnently, is incontinent at an age where accidents are no longer normal, etc. These are obvious self-help difficulties, but there are many more subtle problems with hygiene that even many more capable adult swith autism deal with.

First, many autistics are unaware of the social rules of hygiene. I remember my sister gave me deodorant for my fourteenth birthday and I still didn’t get the hint. I didn’t have an aversion to grooming as much as I was unaware of the changing rules that came with puberty. Similarly, I remember going to the school doctor at age fifteen and, when being asked to undress, realizing I’d forgotten to put on a bra. It is important, when teaching autistic children and teens about hygiene, to explicitly talk them through the changing norms that come as your child ages. Just because your teen boy knows how to work a shaving tool, doesn’t mean he knows or remembers when to use it.

Another problem in self-care may be an autistic person’s sensory aversion to certain tastes or textures, such as that of certain clothing, shampoo or toothpaste. With regard to clothing, comfort goes before style. It’s okay to tell your child that children aged twelve don’t usually wear sweat pants, but don’t ridicule them or try to force them to wear jeans if they’re uncofmortable. If your child is bullied, that’s not their fault even if you as the parent too see them as an easy target. Don’t make it worse by blaming yoru child.

Whn it comes to hygiene, sometimes comfort has to go. I for one refused to use toothpaste until I was eighteen, because even the kids’ toothpaste had too sharp a taste for me to cope with. I started usign toothpaste only because having the dentist need to fill seven cavities was worse. A few years ago, I again developed a problem with toothbrushing that I still haven’t gotten over.

Lastly, this may seem a bit TMI, but please do teach your autistic preteen girl about menstruation. It can be a very scary experience having your body change in general, and menstruation is overwhelmign to many NT women. Therefore, it’s logical that it causes great distress to many autistic teens. Preparing your teen for what will come can be done using simulation, such as with red wine on a pad. That’s what some kids in my sister’s class did when doing a presentation on puberty. Again, remind your daughter to take pads with her at all times. If menstruation is too overwhelming, your teen girl may consider birth control. Most birth control pills cause lighter, shorter, more regular and less painful periods, while some birth control methods eliminate periods completely.