Parenting a teenager with autism

Top 5 tips for parenting a teenage child with autism spectrum disorder

In the teenage years, our autistic children need us more than ever before.  Their bodies are changing and we play an essential role when it comes to helping them overcome feelings and emotions that they do not understand and that they often can’t communicate.

Autism, like any other developmental journey, evolves over time. As autism educators, therapist and parents the importance of listening to the child’s changing needs and understanding the impact of their hormonal changes is vital for the child development.

It all starts with “listening to your child”. Whilst this may sound silly the fundamental aspects of parenting an autistic teenager is recognizing that every autistic individual is unique and that each child may experience shifts in their sensory sensitivities, communication patterns, and interests during their teenage years.

Here are our 5 top tips for parenting a teenage child with autism spectrum disorder:

  1. When dealing with verbal autistic teenagers you can – open communication! Meaning you can foster honest communication with your child. Encourage your child to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about puberty.   Actively listen to what they have to say, even if it seems trivial or unrelated to their autism.
  2. Avoid power struggles at all cost – If you are dealing with a non-speaking or non-verbal autistic teenager then you need to learn to listen to their body language and your child’s moods. Always show your child understanding and support and be aware of your prosody and what your body language is telling your child.
  3. Respect your child’s autonomy. As teenagers, autistic individuals, like their neurotypical peers, seek independence. Respect your child’s or students need for autonomy while providing a supportive safety net.
  4. Adapt your parenting strategies. Autistic teenagers have changing needs and as a parent you have to adapt your parenting strategy to sooth or engage your child because the strategies you had in place in the pre-teen years are sure to be out-dates.
  5. Change your Autism Intervention strategies: No matter how much you had during the early intervention stages – your child’s needs change during the teenage years and you have to stay open to trying new approaches, therapies, or activities that align with their current needs and interests.
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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.