Managing the Challenges of Autism in Teens

There is a wide range of functionality among teens who have autism. For some, life has few impairments and teens can carry on with their educational, social, and occupational pursuits. Yet, for others, autism greatly affects being able to perform daily living activities. For those parents of these teens, managing their child’s life becomes front and center.


Because autism is a developmental disorder that has wide levels of variation. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term for a variety of complex disorders of the brain. As a whole, however, autism is typically recognized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior. These are further explained below:


Communication problems – difficulty with language, such as focusing attention only on topics, repeating phrases, or having limited speech.


Challenge with relating to people, objects, and events – difficulty making friends and interacting with others, challenges with reading facial expressions and making eye contact.


Repetitive body movements and behaviors – there might be hand flapping or the repetition of words or sounds.


Although general symptoms are the same, the specific challenges for each teen diagnosed with Autism can vary. And certainly, the intensity of the challenges of autism will vary among each child. Yet, fortunately, there are a variety of therapies that can address different challenges. In fact, it’s common that one single therapy will not work for every child, and what works for one teen may not work for another. And it is often the case that parents and caregivers need to use a combination of therapies in order to address all of their children’s needs. Some therapies for ASD include Applied Behavioral Analysis, Pivotal Response Treatment, Verbal Behavior, FloorTime, and Developmental Individual Difference Relationship Model (DIR).


Another popular treatment therapy for autistic children is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). However, it is used mainly for children from 1 to 4 years of age. It is mentioned here because it is often grouped among the therapies above, although it is not typically used with adolescents. This therapy is a developmental, relationship-based that focuses on social skills, such as communication, language, and cognition.


Children and teens who participate in at least 25 hours of structured, therapeutic activities per week; work with highly trained behavioral therapists; aim towards specific learning objectives; interact with peers with and without autism; cultivate social, communication, and daily living skills; and who have a team of professionals working together on their behalf are likely to experience an improvement in symptoms of Autism and their quality of life.


Another way to manage the challenges of autistic teens is to surround them with support. If your teen is attending school, be sure that he or she has aids, teachers, counselors, and a one-on-one therapeutic aid to facilitate success at school. The same is true at home. Make sure that your autistic teen has the support of his or her siblings. With this, be sure to have home health nurses and other aids at home as well. When there is a team of professionals involved in an autistic teen’s life, meeting those challenges that accompany the illness become easier.


Lastly, when the time is right, you might want to communicate to your teen the illness that he or she has. This might facilitate understanding, cooperation, and acceptance in your teen, which could affect his or her behavior.


Of course, the challenges of autism are great and parents often demonstrate heroic efforts in supporting their autistic teen. The suggestions provided above are meant to ease those heroic efforts and make family life enjoyable, as it should be.