Autism is a frustrating disease for patients of any age, but once an autistic child reaches his or her teenage years, it can become even more of a struggle. Autism is a disease in which communication and social functions are inhibited, while emotional control is repressed and repetitive behaviors are sometimes commonplace. Autism shares several symptoms with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorders), because the patient finds comfort in repetitive actions.
Our teenage years are full of changes both mentally and physically, resulting in confusion for even a healthy teenager. An autistic teenager will have even more trouble coping with these factors, including the development of social skills and the emotional ramifications of traumatic events. He or she will have difficulty communicating with peers, and might be viewed as “different” or “strange” by other teenagers. This will be difficult for any autistic teenager to handle.
One main complication that an autistic teenager will face is the acceptance of increasing sexuality. In some cases of autism, the autistic traits decrease as the patient ages, which can help relieve some of these problems, but other autistic teenagers experience increasingly worsening symptoms, as well as an understanding of how different they are from their peers. Autistic teenagers may be frustrated by their inability to date members of the opposite sex, to plan a future career, or to participate in other coming-of-age activities.
This can lead to introspection and a desire to be around adults rather than other teenagers. An autistic teen may avoid social interaction entirely, or react violently or angrily to provocation.
Of course, there are varying levels of autism, and not all autistic patients behave like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. High-functioning autistics are capable of interacting normally with others, and will experience fewer of the complications with reaching the teenage years. However, autism sufferers who are low-functioning will be more profoundly affected.
Every autistic teenager’s experience is different, but it is important that they have the support of family and loved ones. Autism does not mean that a teenager is retarded or incapable of taking normal classes in high school; in fact, many autistic teens have higher I.Q.’s than a regular teenager. Autistic teenagers who are incapable of functioning in a normal school environment will have to be tutored individually, which can compound the feelings of emotional and social estrangement.
Parents of autistic teenagers should spend time with their child to teach what would be considered normal social behavior. It sometimes helps an autistic teenager if there is a friend in their classes who is aware of their affliction and can help to guide them through junior high and high school. Understanding, caring, educated mentors are necessary to help the autistic teenager feel wanted and appreciated for his or her talents and abilities.
It is best to consult with both a doctor and a psychologist to determine the healthiest and most comfortable environment for an autistic teenager.