Do you have to parent a teen on the autism spectrum differently? This week’s question comes from a mom struggling with how to help her high-functioning autistic teen transition to adulthood.
Q: I’m currently raising a 13-year-old stepson and have other children between the ages of 18 and 31, have read John Rosemond’s Teen Proofing several times and purchased book for friends. What can you recommend to help me with a 13 year old stepson who is a high functioning boy on the autism spectrum? He is on no medication, goes to special speech therapy twice a week and was switched to high functioning classes in the 6th grade. My question is does the wisdom in Teen Proofing (becoming a mentor to your teen) be successfully implemented with an autism spectrum teenager?
A: I’m not sure you need anything special to translate Teen Proofing wisdom to a young teen on the autism spectrum. While there are different challenges associated with such a teen, underneath it all, he’s still a teenage boy.
Sometimes, I think we get all too focused on how a child’s special needs impacts his or her learning or social interactions and forget that he or she is still a child or teen. The autistic teen still wrestles with friends, with withstanding peer pressure, with hormones/body changes, with romantic attachments/crushes, with school/homework…just like a non-autistic teen. When we focus more on the diagnoses than the teen, we can start to think we need to change the way we raise him 180 degrees.
While there are different challenges associated with such a teen, underneath it all, he’s still a teenage boy.
Which is what you’re essentially wondering—do you need to do a wholesale change to the way you parented your other teens simple because your 13-year-old happens to be on the autism spectrum? My answer is no.
As with any teen, if you focus on the positive character traits you want your teen to have, such as honesty, compassion, respect for others and himself, a helpful spirit, etc., you’ll have a better understanding of what to do when faced with behavioral or academic situations. The bottom line is that you know your teen, and while you might delay certain responsibilities or privileges based on his diagnoses, your goal is the same as with your other kids—to raise an adult who can function on his own in society.
So use Teen Proofing as your guide, write down the character traits you want this boy to have when he’s an adult, and go from there. You’ve got this—you really do!