Karen, from Confessions of An Aperger’s Mom, has graciously agreed to guest post for me today. She has two teenage boys with Asperger’s, and is a great resource since she has spent so many years raising them and teaching them skills. Be sure to visit her blog! Thank you, Karen!!
Parents of younger Aspies often reach out to me because I have teenagers and I have been through some of the things that they are currently going through. They want to know if there is hope for the future…that things will get better as they grow older and become more mature. My boys are 12 and 16…I’m still waiting for things to get better. Of course, every child is different. My 12 year old in many ways is more mature than the 16 year old. Blue(12) is maturing and becoming very independent.
Unfortunately as Red, my 16 year old has become a teen…we received the additional diagnosis, of Bi-Polar NOS and depression. Things have not become easier. He is this gigantic, immature boy who doesn’t want to listen to anything we say. He is a real puzzle that we are constantly trying to solve.
On the other hand I am a nearly perfect mom and I have no regrets about my parenting decisions up until now. (Yeah right! LOL!) Of course, there are a few things I wish had known earlier and done differently when the boys were younger. Here are 5 of those things:
1. Just because they have a disability…don’t let them manipulate you into giving them whatever they want. You feel bad…you feel guilty because of their issues. They ask, they have a hissy fit…you give them what they want to shut them up. This will bite you in the ass when they become teenagers…and everything they want cost 100 dollars or more. Teach them early on that they need to earn what they get. If it’s not Christmas…it’s not your birthday, you have to earn it. They really love to earn things. It gives them structure and responsibility and teaches them the true value of money which they think just comes magically out of the ATM.
2. Tantrums aren’t cute when they are bigger than you! Sometimes we are afraid of labels and psychotropic medications. It’s hard pill to swallow (pun intended). If they are having severe meltdowns when they are younger, they will not magically go away when they become teens. Puberty wreaks havoc on their bodies and their brains. Anxieties can get bigger, depression becomes more intense. They may need different or additional medications, and it may need to be adjusted several times during this period of change. I am all in favor of natural methods and therapy if they work. Getting the correct cocktail of medication is a royal pain in the ass. You can’t give up! You can curse the doctors out if you think that will help. In the end, it’s up to you to play close attention to the changes and alert the doctors about what you are
seeing. ALWAYS -FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS! The doctors don’t always know better than you!
3. Get the routine down and stick to it! Make sure they take showers, brush teeth and put on deodorant (when it becomes necessary) daily and stick to that routine. There is nothing worse than a smelly teenager walking around! They don’t pay teachers enough money to put up with the smells! You can only hope they will take this routine with them whenever they hopefully get out of your house!
4. Some of those cute little things they do when they are young may become big issues when they get to middle school and high-school. Those unsolicited hugs, and “Can I touch your hair?”, insisting that someone be your friend, pushing or touching other students. When they get to middle and high-school these things become creepy, and can border on harassment. Boundaries do not come naturally for our kids with autism and Aspergers…we have to work hard to TEACH these boundaries in conjunction with their therapist and the school psychologist. If this is an issue for your child, put in his IEP and make it a goal to change the behavior before they leave elementary school.
5. Be consistent -set house rules and expectations. Put them in black and white for all to see. Rewards and positive reinforcement is a great way to get the behaviors you want to see. That doesn’t mean that they don’t also need to have consequences for the behaviors that are unacceptable. No…you don’t punish them for having a melt-down that they can’t control. That doesn’t mean that they can’t receive negative consequences for CHOOSING not to follow the house rules. Having Aspergers doesn’t mean you don’t know the difference between right and wrong. Your mild consequences now, are better than the huge consequences that the real world will impose on them when they are not in your care…like in middle and high-school. They don’t coddle them nearly as much as they do in elementary school. Boy…I miss elementary
I hate to be the one to tell you there are a lot more things you will have to think about as our Aspergers kids become
teenagers. There are so many more things that you need to know. You will have to come and follow my blog
(http://www.confessionsofanspergersmom.blogspot.com) to see all of the challenges that we are facing in these
teenage years. I don’t have all of the answers. I am learning as I go, continually reading, researching, and advocating for my children.
You can start getting ahead of the game by reading a guest post (http://confessionsofanaspergersmom.blogspot.com/2011/07/10-things-by-tanya-savko.html) from Tanya Savko of (http://www.teenautism.com). Tanya’s blog is also an excellent resource.