Asperger’s- the Teen Years

March 14, 2016

Navigating the volatile, awkward  and many times, hormonal teen years can be overwhelming for even the most socially confident young people.  Navigating the teens with Asperger’s Syndrome can be downright difficult. Some of the biggest challenges revolve around social isolation, depression, and school challenges. While these may sound like pretty typical issues for teens to face, “Aspie” teens face these issues while grappling with social, emotional and communication struggles as well.  Let’s examine some of the challenges and how you can help your teen with Asperger’s Syndrome.

  • Social Isolation – The teen years are known for being a time when young people feel insecure about their behavior and appearance.  It can sometimes be a time when the adolescent who is seen as different is isolated. Dealing with isolation and watching it happen to your child can be heartbreaking especially for a parent who may remember high school with fond memories.  Help your child draw upon their strengths.  Encourage them to find friends who appreciate them for not conforming. Use your child’s special interests as motivation to meet and communicate with other teens. Stay with what has worked in the past.  Remind yourself and your teen that being hip and cool is not everything it is cracked up to be. Having one or two good friends may be more valuable in the long run.  However, do encourage your child to keep up with things that can isolate like poor hygiene, extreme social rudeness or dangerous activities.
  • School Challenges – As if it isn’t enough having to deal with the physical and social changes of the teen years, to add insult to injury, school has most likely gotten much harder for your teen. Many “Aspies” with their average to above average IQs can sail through grammar school, and yet hit academic problems in middle and high school. Now that teens probably have to deal with multiple high school or middle school teachers rather than one elementary school teacher things can get tricky.  As a parent, advocate for your child. Be sure each teacher knows about special accommodations that need to be made for your child.  Help your teen break down large projects or homework assignments into manageable parts so they don’t get overwhelmed. Find advocates such as special education teachers, guidance counselors and sometimes peer programs that can help your teen adjust.
  • Depression – The teen years are riddled with emotional stressors and hormonal changes that can trigger depression and anxiety. Don’t panic, however—there are interventions you can provide. Seek out activity-based, practical social skills groups designed especially for teens. Participating in such a group, being accepted by group leaders and peers, is probably the most powerful way to allay a teen’s potential despair at not fitting in socially and not having any friends.