Teenagers: The New Chapter

There has been a tremendous amount of work going into helping Preston. The initial diagnosis was bittersweet. I felt in my gut that my son was on the spectrum since the age of 2. Getting confirmation years later, I felt relieved and scared at the same time. What exactly does this mean going forward? Will he ever maintain relationships? Will he gain independence? What will become of his life?

I researched everything I could find out about autism. I educated myself on ABA therapy by taking notes and asking his therapist a plethora of questions. Preston has made progress in ways some professionals said he never would. I’m proud of him for that. He doesn’t see his diagnosis as a hindrance.

Well now, we are embarking upon the teenage years…oh boy!

Preston is facing his biggest challenge yet. In fact, his entire support team is along for ride. All teenagers deal with hormonal changes. All teenagers test boundaries. All teenagers struggle to find their way. Add all of that to difficulty with social norms and cues as well as expressing feelings.

Life is changing by the minute. Tactics that previously worked are now ineffective. You cannot put a teenager in timeout. Trust me, it doesn’t work but he does have a cool down spot in our home. Some behaviors can be ignored while others require a different approach. Taking his things away has probably been the most successful tool. He absolutely despises losing his favorite items.

The changes that are occurring right now doesn’t necessarily warrant removing his material possessions. You can’t fault a child for not having the ability to fully understand the physiological changes which occur during puberty.

We’ve had “the talk” multiple times. He appears to be uninterested but it’s imperative that he knows about sex and what comes along with it. There’s no doubt he likes girls and yearns for a girlfriend, but he struggles with all that it entails. His thought process about sex is very straight forward.

This is a confusing time for Preston. He knows he can converse with me (and his support team) about anything but I’m certain he doesn’t always know what to ask. My approach is to provide information in small bits and pieces. I don’t want overload his brain all at once. I always ask if he has any questions. Sometimes, he has a cluster. Other times, not a single one.

He’s still learning to form friendships; most of which are at school. When he feels a peer isn’t being a “good friend”, it can pose problems. It hurts his feelings and he becomes irritated. Unfortunately, he tends to express it with aggression. That has led to disciplinary actions within school.

Testosterone levels increase with puberty and that has impacted his mood. Like most teens, he has mood swings (I’m searching for various physical outlets to channel his aggression). He’s a kind and loving person but he’s easily frustrated when he can’t communicate his feelings. In fact, he often says he doesn’t like his “angry side” and wants to be the “good guy.” By nature, Preston is a sweetheart and is very helpful towards others.

It breaks my heart to see him struggle finding his way and I worry about the negative possibilities. He doesn’t want to make bad decisions and I attempt to use them as teaching moments so he doesn’t repeat the wrongs. Since his diagnosis, we’ve learned to deal with obstacles as they appear. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to look back on this like his other accomplishments.

I have faith that this too shall pass. But until then, wish us luck!