Raising a teenager is never easy – hormonal changes, getting through high school, and dealing with turbulent relationships are just a few of the things teens go through which can be incredibly stressful. When that teen is on the autism spectrum, however, that stress takes on a whole new meaning, and parents are often at a loss as to how to handle all the changes. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The good news is, there are some ways you can help your teen with ASD learn how to cope with these changes and feelings. With a good plan and some patience, you can learn along with your child and prepare them for adulthood.

Here are some of the top 4 ways to help your child through their teenage years:

Listen

It can be difficult, especially during frustrating moments, but it’s important to listen to what your teen is trying to communicate. For some individuals on the autism spectrum, communication doesn’t come easily or at all, and for others it can be hard when they don’t understand what emotions are bubbling up. If you can learn to be alert to body language and other signals from your child, it will be much easier to understand what they’re going through.

Let them say “No”

Decision-making is an important part of growing up, and for teens on the autism spectrum, it represents a shift that comes with frustrating consequences. But having the ability to say “no” to something you want them to do – and then following through with it – will enable your child to learn what it feels like to make their own decisions, and while that may be a scary thing to accept, it’s imperative for their own safety and understanding of what it means to be an adult.

Have “The Talk”

It may be necessary to work with your child’s teacher when it comes to hygiene and their changing body, but for many teens on the autism spectrum, communication about sex and all the things that come along with it is best coming from you. It is never a comfortable conversation, but it is important to let your child know – at the very least, in a basic way – about the facts of life. Simple drawings can be helpful at this time, especially with complicated topics such as menstruation. Don’t feel the need to get too detailed, as this might overwhelm your child. Start with one issue and prepare yourself for talking about it more at a later date, while gauging your child’s ability to comprehend this information.

Be aware of changes

The Autism Research Institute estimates that one in four teens who fall on the autism spectrum will have a seizure, even if they never had one during childhood. The cause is unknown, but many researchers believe that hormonal changes lead to this development. Pay attention to the changes in your child’s physicality and behavior and let their doctor know right away if you feel something is off.

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