The Fine Line Between a Teenager with Autism and Politics
In honor of the upcoming mid-term elections…
My fifteen-year-old with mild autism likes to discuss politics.
Was this always the case?
When he was in middle school, his history teacher gave them a homework assignment—watch the debates between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and report on them.
That’s where it all began with my child.
He became interested in politics.
Additionally, I listen to NPR in the morning. My son began to tune into the political stories when he was eating breakfast before school.
Now, he likes it.
Now, he likes to talk about politics.
What do we do?
We feel that in many situations, it may not be appropriate to discuss politics. We have asked our child, for example, to not discuss politics at school.
We also have family and friends that are sensitive to political discussions. There are many times when political discussions are not appropriate and often these times are at family gatherings.
We inform our son that there are times when it’s simply not appropriate to go there, besides school. (For example, he sometimes tries to ask political questions when he swimming. We try to remind him that he’s there to swim, not talk politics.)
He has a few friends who don’t mind and/or even like to discuss politics. And, most of the time, that’s fine. On a limited basis, of course.
What kind of limited basis?
Well, for example, my son loves to ask me questions about politics. He comes up with MANY.
There are so many packed within one car ride, that I usually have to end it by saying something like, “Okay, only two more questions.”
Or, if I’m tired and have already answered a bunch of questions on that day, sometimes I have to tell him that I just can’t answer any more.
We have to set limits to the political talk.
It’s safe to discuss politics with us, but our son gets so obsessed by things, he sometimes don’t know how to shut it off.
Is the topic taboo?
Of course not. At some point, we actually want our teenagers, pre-young adults, young adults to begin to form their own opinions about the world. They should be involved. It’s a part of the freedoms awarded to us in this country that they were born into.
How do we balance these three things: teenagers, autism, and politics?
Limits and safe places to talk.
We have mentioned to our son that some politic talk these days can be a trigger to others. It’s emotional and people can be easily defensive.
For now, we can monitor most spaces where he talks (even on his devices).
As he grows older, we’ll continue to encourage him to express himself and learn about issues within our society. In most situations, we’ll ask him to try to keep it relatively toned down, we want to advocate all forms of non-violence. We’ll remind him about safe and appropriate places to discuss politics.
The Fine Line Between a Teenager with Autism and Politics is, at times, a bit tricky. There are worse things to have to deal with, but as long as our son understands how to “agree to disagree” with people who have their own strong views, and things remain at a debate level, then he’ll be fine.
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