Teenagers with Autism

This week my son turned 16 years old.  I remember when I was 16.  My parents let me take the day off so I could get my driver’s license.  It was a moment of freedom in that I could drive around town to meet up with my friends without having to plan whose mom was going to drive.  Of course, this was a long time ago and there were not the restrictions on driving like there is now.   I could have whoever I wanted in the car… not just family members.

Instead of my son fixating on when he can drive, Alex instead wants to pick out a suit for his 16th birthday.  You might think it is for homecoming or because he wants to be a snappy dresser.  No.  His latest fixation is on politics.   He has now decided that he wants to give speeches, go to town hall meetings as the election draws near and tell people how he wants to be the future President of the United States.  Luckily, I was able to distract him with his normal fixation, drawing.  So, his birthday day with mom was spent roaming the aisles of Michael’s looking for supplies for his next “big project.”   Of course, that was not enough. He insisted on going to the local thrift store to find some supplies “for a low price.”  He did not have a clue what he needed.  Being his birthday, I entertained this; however, when we got to the thrift store and all he wanted was an old VCR and random electrical cords, I had to put my foot down.  His room is already filled with random items!   This prompted a short meltdown with him telling me that he did not want to argue and we should just buy the stuff.

As a parent to a child with autism, I have to celebrate the small victories.   I probably will never celebrate the “normal” milestones that most other parents do with their “normally” developing kids.   Despite the frustration at Alex’s ongoing fixations, I do have some silver linings.  A neighbor of mine told me that Alex stopped by and was super polite and even gave her a hug.  She said her own kids do not do that anymore.  It is the small victories.

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Navigating the Autism Jungle

I spent most of my week working with families who needed an assessment to determine if their child has autism or some other developmental disability.  Having two children with autism myself, I have been in their shoes.  The worry.  The confusion.  Dealing with parents of “normal” kids.  It is painful and feels very isolating.  No one gives you a road map when your kid is three years old and still not talking or making eye contact.  Parents usually just stumble on my services.

This has to change.

Autism and developmental disabilities are not going away.  Quite the opposite.  The numbers are exploding.  As a nation, we are a superpower in so many other areas but when it comes to something like making sure our children get the right services, we are severely lacking.   I can’t tell you how many times I have assessed a young adult with autism or another developmental disability like an intellectual disability and the parents will say, “Why didn’t the school, doctor, anyone tell us about something?”

In my next several blogs, I am going to help shed some light on what families can do to get the help that is needed.  Stay tuned.