The teenage years are synonymous for being difficult not only for the teens but also for their parents. During this period, teens are experiencing several biological and psychological changes and this is no different to adolescents who have particular needs including those who have Autism. The following are 10 tips for parents of teens with Autism to help you support your child better.
- Adapting to school changes – Teens might have to transition to a secondary school which can be a big change causing them to feel anxious. Prepare them ahead for this change, if possible arrange for school visits and obtain as much information as you can about the school structure. This will give your child more reassurance and will know what to expect.
- Choosing the option subjects – When they are in Year 8 (Form 2), students need to choose 2/3 subjects they want to study. They might feel overwhelmed about all the choices and struggle to visualise what the subjects entail. Show them video clips about topics that would be typically covered in such subjects. You can also try to arrange for brief meetings with the subject teachers of those subjects your child is interested to follow so as to get more information or they can also talk to a career advisor.
- Meeting deadlines – With the expectation of teens starting to become more independent and responsible, they need to learn how to manage better their time and to meet deadlines for projects and homework. Help them set up a schedule and calendar so that they learn how to use it to monitor their progress and manage their workload.
- Use of visuals – Generally, visuals work very well with teens who have Autism as they struggle with their abstract thinking. Thus, visuals can help them to develop a better understanding of the concept they are trying to learn about.
- Making friends – Not all teens with Autism want to stay alone and avoid talking to people, some want to have friends and to fit in. Practice conversation starters with your child and role play how they would talk to peers in different scenarios so that they develop their confidence when it comes to social skills.
- Social stories – To help them develop a better understanding of how to function in social situations create social stories adapted for their age where you help them to process how they can tackle situations that arise e.g. conflicts with a peer.
- Find a hobby – Help your teen find something they are passionate about preferably something they can do with others or to join a club. Sharing an interest with others might make it easier for them to connect with likeminded people.
- Bodily changes – Teens with Autism may not always understand what is happening to their body as they are passing through puberty. The use of visuals can be helpful by showing them images or videos to explain what happens during this time. Although they might have discussed such topics at school, they might be uncomfortable to ask their teacher if they did not understand something.
- Dating – Older adolescents may start to develop romantic interests but might not know how to express their feelings. This is completely normal so do not be upset with them. Provide them with the space to talk about their feelings and answer questions they may have about this topic.
- Focus on strengths – As they grow older, they may become more aware of their differences which may affect their self-confidence. Help them to focus on what they are good at and any other positive qualities they have to help them improve their self-esteem.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.