I know how it is. You probably found this website because you’re searching for information – anything – on autism in the teen years. Whether you’re a parent, a family member, teacher, or friend, you might feel daunted as your loved one or student with autism enters (or is in the middle of) his or her teen years. That was me in 2007 as my son turned thirteen and I searched desperately for information. Nigel had been diagnosed with classic autism in 1997 at age three, at a time when I would tell parents at the playground that he had autism (as a way to explain his behavior) and they would ask, “What’s that?” It was a time when our local Barnes & Noble only had two shelves marked “special needs parenting,” and I could only find two archaic books on autism. The Internet was not the resource that it is today. There were no blogs. I couldn’t find or buy any autism books online. I felt completely alone.
Nigel was immediately enrolled in an intensive ABA-based (non-aversive) program that lasted three years. We rarely, if ever, heard spontaneous speech from him until the age of five and a half, when he slowly started to put together three-word sentences. His language acquisition challenges were compounded by his severe sensory issues, making it sometimes impossible for him to tolerate being in public places, such as grocery stores and restaurants. He indicated his distress by screaming and bolting. And in wide-open spaces where he felt more comfortable, he would wander and get lost if I was preoccupied with his younger brother for a second.
Somehow, we made it to the teen years. By then, Nigel’s speech had increased tremendously, more than I even dared to imagine. But we still faced many issues caused by his autism. His sensory issues had mercifully improved (due to time and his diligence in learning to filter agonizing sounds), but they were still problematic. And his social issues , including being the target of daily bullying, were so severe that I needed to homeschool him for a year and a half because the school district did not provide an acceptable alternative.
And so, I invite you to take your time and get into TeenAutism.com. Due to schedule constraints I had to stop writing new posts in January, 2011, but all the previous posts are here. Feel free to leave a comment on anything you’d like, as I regularly check for comments. Occasionally a comment will go into the spam filter and I won’t see it (because this site gets hundreds of spam comments a day), so I do apologize if you submit a comment and it doesn’t get posted. If that’s the case, please email your comment to me: tanya (at) teenautism.com. I’d love to hear from you, and I wish you the best on your journey. You are not alone.