Navigating the Teen Years With Autism [Colleyville Texas Autism Charity]
So Max will be 14 in a few months. The teenage angst has set in and he’s becoming even MORE black and white in his opinions if that’s possible.
I definitely didn’t think ahead to what puberty would look like in a high functioning child with autism. Max is my oldest so I had no frame of reference on what a typical child looks like in their teenage years. Aspergers paired with puberty looks REALLY REALLY inflexible. He has become an authority on many many things. He played football for the first time this year at school. All his spare time is now spent watching videos of past plays, researching stats of football stars and repeating them to everyone. He is pretty sure he will go on to become a professional NFL player. You have to admire that kind of confidence.
He has struggled to complete chores such as bed making, loading the dishwasher and making sure lights are turned off. A few months ago I had called upstairs to him to ask him to make his bed. When I went to his room 20 minutes later he was sitting next to his unmade bed. When I asked why he hadn’t completed his task he said he made a judgement call that he would be getting back into it in just a few hours and there didn’t seem to be any point. He was not joking. He said that the problem with doing chores is that he doesn’t get any direct benefit from it. Most teens at this age might think that but would know better than to say it out loud. Some of this seems really funny when he says it But the reality is, he doesn’t understand emotion or the concept of doing things for others. There is no big picture in his view.
The flip side is that he never gets his feelings hurt when he is not invited parties. He never feels left out or worries about peer pressure. That in itself is such a gift. His anxiety has definitely increased however over the last year and a half, most of it comes from not if or when he has some free time and increasing demands with school work. That can stress him A LOT!
That said Greg and I realize how amazing Max’s progress is. You really never know when your non verbal child is diagnosed with autism what they will be able to do. Will they go to regular school, be mainstreamed with other kids,have a job, live at home with you forever? And remember for lots of kids on the spectrum, that reality may never come for their familiars and their lives a so difficult on a daily basis. I remind myself every day we are extremely lucky we are that Max has responded so well to the things we have done with him. There are thousands of parents out there who have done just as many therapies and treatments as we have, if not more and for whatever reason their kids have not responded to them. It can be such a frustrating journey in that regard!
If you have any stories of your autism journey and navigating the teenage years, we would love to hear them!
Nicole and Greg Chalmers