Autism is a developmental disorder that varies widely in its severity. Some teens might be able to function normally and enjoy the educational, social, and occupational aspects of their lives; while other teens may need much more support in order to function. For these teens, parents may need to adjust their lives tremendously in order to give their teens the support they need.
Because there is such a wide range, the symptoms of autism are considered to be on a spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term for a variety of complex disorders of the brain that children and teens can develop.
Typically, autism affects a teen’s ability to:
Communicate. Teens with autism have difficulty with language, such as focusing attention only on topics, repeating phrases, or having limited speech.
Relate. Teens with autism have a hard time making friends and interacting with others. They may also find it challenging to read facial expressions and making eye contact.
Behave. Teens with autism often exhibit repetitive body movements and behaviors, such as hand flapping or the repetition of words or sounds.
Because of the many challenges that symptoms of autism can create for families, it’s important that parents get the support they need as well. For instance, Tanya Savko, creator of TeenAutism.com, has written extensively about the difficult journey of being a parent of an autistic teen. If you’re like Tanya, looking for ways to manage the challenging journey, here are tips to consider:
Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse. It’s important that you and your spouse are a parenting team and that you’re working together. Neither parent is to blame for your child’s disability so it’s best to support one another.
Compliment yourself. In this way, you can be a model for your child. By complimenting yourself and your spouse in front of your child, you show him or her that you’re focusing on your positives despite having any weaknesses.
Evaluate your day. Enjoy all the things you did right.
Don’t try to be a perfect parent. Perfect parents don’t exist. Doing your best is the only thing you can hope for.
Talk with a caring, nonjudgmental friend or therapist. Take advantage of this when you’re life gets so difficult that you need someone to talk to. You may need it from time to time.
Locate a support group. This is a great way to express your concerns, frustrations, and achievements with your child.
Exercise at least three times per week. This will keep you mental and physical healthy. You’ll be able to keep your stress level low with anxiety, and this might be something that spouses can do together.
Delegate tasks to other members of the family.
Use behavior management techniques. Use these when you need to with your autistic teen for changing any negative behavior. There are a variety of therapies that can assist with behavior management.
Get help. If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, don’t use drugs or take prescription pills, instead, find a mental health professional to talk to. A therapist or psychologist might be well versed in autism and might also be able to provide that additional support as well.
These are tips for parents who have teens with autism. Remember, there are a variety of therapies that can address the different challenges that come with autism. Taking good care of yourself as well as getting the support you need can help best manage the difficulty of the journey.