A while back I wrote a blog entry about my teenage years. If you have not read it, I recommend that you do so. I discussed in that blog entry about how there was a constant rage boiling inside of me, and I did not understand why. I questioned the world around me. And, the notion of forming friendships sounded repulsive to me, and yet there was also a deep down desire to form connections with others. I was at war with myself, internally.
I think the majority of teenagers are at war with themselves internally whether they have autism or not. Teenagers will be teenagers. Nonetheless, an autistic teen might adjust to the world differently than an NT (neurotypical) teen. A teen with autism is likely to continue having the same interests from early childhood such as Pokemon, Teletubies, Sesame Street, Thomas the Train, or whatever their childhood interest may be. In some cases, there interest will be something more age appropriate like Star Wars. But, realistically speaking, a teen that is into Thomas the Train might incur much bullying from his peers. This is an unfortunate side effect of our judgmental society.
But, this blog entry is not about bullying. I already wrote an entry about it and spoke about bullying in my YouTube videos. Also, the YouTube video "Someday Has to Be Today" by Jesse Saperstein is an excellent video to check out for those concerned about bullying issues.
Okay, so moving on. How does one handle a teenager with autism. Oftentimes, with teenagers there can be a lot of conflict. You tell them one thing and they do the opposite to piss you off and test your limits. Or, they sometimes do the opposite because they are trying to express who they are. Anyway, what I am getting at is that confrontation is usually an ineffective means to resolve issues.
Confrontation often uses up a lot of energy leaving both parties energetically depleted. Though, teenagers tend to have more energy than adults in their forties or however old you may be. But, that is beside the point. The point is that oftentimes confrontation just subverts an issue. By this, I mean that if a teenager is going to do something, they will just be more discreet the next time and try their best to not get caught. I know this form firsthand experience. Though, the things I tried to not get caught doing were things like mangling fruits and looking at my dad's stash of Playboy magazine. I actually never got caught for the latter.
Anyway, subtly is probably the best key when it comes to stopping certain behaviors. Now, perhaps that won't work. Teenagers are a challenge whether they have autism or not. Now, by subtly what I mean is that you need to be discreet when you talk about certain subjects with teenagers. Perhaps, talk about things you did as teen, getting in trouble, getting drunk, dating, sex, drugs....Whatever it was that you did. Maybe you didn't do any of those things. I didn't do those things as a teen, but there are a lot of teens that do those things. If you were a good teen, then take a stretch and discuss the worst you ever did even if it was stealing a dollars from your mom's purse to get a pack of gum.
Now, you might be afraid of exposing yourself by discussing what you did. You might be afraid that this will encourage your teen to do the same behaviors. But, perhaps you can discuss how doing certain things might have messed up certain things in your life. By discussing your own mistakes, I think your teen will relate to you more. I think most teens see parents as this horrible force that thinks they know what is best, but that never got in trouble, and just doesn't understand them. Nobody likes to be condemned. Condemnation almost always breeds resentment. And, most people that are condemned most often don't see themselves as wrong anyway. Studies prove this.
The key to any sort of social success is showing other people that you understand them. I learned this secret in my Interpersonal Communication class about 7 years ago. It is one of the most important things I ever learned. I learned in that class how to be a good listener. Being a good listener is also another skill that can benefit you as a parent. Being a good listener and exposing yourself shows your teen that you are not just there as a parent but as a friend as well.
Now, what if the teen still continues their behavior? Well, the truth is that a teen with autism can still continue their behavior. Many of us are very stubborn or just see the world in a different way and believe that you have an outmoded way of looking at the world. That is how I felt about my mom most of the time when I was a teen.
Sometimes, you just can't stop your teens behavior. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can't. The truth is that you just need to do your best as a parent and do your best to not lose your parent. You need to try and see things from their point of view. I'm not a parent, so I can't guarantee that what I say will work. The teenage years are tricky, but everybody makes it through them.
I thank you again for reading this blog. If you ever have any questions please feel free to ask me through my contact form. Thank you.