4 mins read

Autism and Pre-Teens

Do kids with autism go through some typical pre-teen changes?

I’d say the answer is yes.

Your kids are still kids. Mine just turned twelve and here are some things I’ve noticed in the last year.

–More arguing
–More questioning of “why” he has to do something
–Testing his boundaries more than ever
–A desire for more independence

All typical development, and then some (per the autism).

Does my son struggle with age plus autism?


One example I can give is that my son always struggled with following two or three step instructions, which is typical of kids with autism. He still struggles at times.

Another example is my son has always lacked patience. Sometimes I swear it’s not getting any better now that his teen years are knocking on his door.

What part of this is good?

I believe most of it is good.

I certainly can’t stop it from happening. And, it means he’s growing up.

He has definitely expressed an interest in becoming more independent. One way he decided to gain more independence is asking me to not walk him all the way to school.

I now walk him part way, and a few times I even let him go back to school when he got home and realized he had forgotten some homework.

He appreciates it. And, I trust him.

He knows how to cross streets, he knows how and where to enter the school.

He does respond well to being given some responsibility. Because when he succeeds, he’s proud of himself.

Another way he’s beginning to feel more grown up is sitting next to me in the passenger seat of the car.

My husband and I have decided—for now—to only let him do this on local rides. But, on freeways rides, we’re still asking him to sit in the back.

But, my son really liked that “advancement” in his life.

What other things do you still struggle with?

Some of the things mentioned above are tough for both of us. He does argue more now, and a part of his argument is demanding an answer that is satisfying to him.

I will admit, I don’t always give out a satisfying answer right away.

Typically, if I can’t explain something right away (or are pressed for time), I will explain it later.

But, my pre-teen is certainly getting more demanding. He’s more of an in-the-moment person. So, that part of his pre-teen behavior is sometimes a struggle.

Also, he is testing his boundaries more.

He’s threaten, “What if I didn’t do what you say?”

At first, that caught me off guard. All I typically say is, “I’ll have to up the consequences.”

A few times, we have escalated to the point where both of us are furious.

And, yes, I can see when it’s just a pre-teen thing verses an autism thing.

For example, my son is much better at avoiding meltdowns. I can see them building, but I can also see him working on it internally.

A few times he has avoided one, when in the past there was simple no chance.

And, I’ve complimented him on that success.

I tell him it means something when you “don’t” get all worked up.

There’s no stopping my son getting older. And, there’s going to be no stopping him from becoming a teenager. I know this. And, most of the time, I welcome it.

It is still two-fold, autism and pre-teen.

But, I signed on for this ride a long time ago. So, bring it on.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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Twitter: tipsautismmom
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You can also find this autism blog on ModernMom.com

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