Talking to Your Teen with Autism

Before beginning a new teen club, we had to have an intake before the first session.

The intake involved an intake specialist, my child, and myself and my husband. We had to sign off on some of the rules for the club and discuss expected behaviors and participation.

What is this teen club?

This teen club meets twice a week.

The first meeting is a planning and social meeting. The second weekly meeting is a community interaction meeting. These meetings have different goals each week—vocational, volunteering, community service, life skills, and exercise.

This club is designed for older children—over the age of thirteen.

With that in mind, I’d like to discuss how to talk to your teen.

What happened during the intake?

During the intake, we were asked a question about discussing autism.

The intake specialist asked my husband and myself if our child felt comfortable discussing his own autism with his peers.

I remember hesitating because a thought came to me.

“Why is she asking me this question?”

I looked at my son, who was sitting directly across from me.

I repeated the question to him. I said, “_____, do you feel comfortable discussing your own autism with your group peers?”

He hesitated to think about the question.

Then, he said, “I don’t feel all that comfortable bringing it up. And, I’d rather not talk about it.”

I asked him, “Do you think that could change someday?”

He said, “Yes. It could. Maybe I could talk about it after I’ve been in the group for a while.”

The intake specialist asked us if we wanted to re-visit this question in six to nine months. My son thought that was a reasonable idea, so we all agreed to it.

I thought it was strange that the intake specialist didn’t directly ask my son that question. Perhaps it was their protocol.

But, I had hesitated because it felt like his question. He’s thirteen and should be able to make some of these decisions on his own.

I wasn’t going to be in the group discussing my autism.

It was his question.

I totally respected his answer.

Were there any other child specific questions?

Yes.

Another question I felt needed to be answered by my son also dealt with discussing personal issues.

The intake specialist asked—this time she asked me—if my son was okay with discussing teen-related issues within the group such as puberty.

Again, I hesitated, and then looked at my son. I asked him how he felt.

He thought about it, and then said, “I’m okay with that. I can discuss those things.”

For a second time, I didn’t understand why the intake specialist didn’t directly ask this question to my son. Instead, she asked me.

I really feel that my son can handle more mature questions at his age.

Perhaps an intake specialist at this facility doesn’t know that about my son, but I know it.

If you really know your child, give him or her the opportunity to handle age-appropriate questions or issues—autism or not. Not only will they feel more involved, but it may also be confidence-building.

It’s all yet another part of growing up. All we can do is continue to help them.

 

More on Kimberly Kaplan:

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