I know how it is. You probably found this website because you’re searching for information – anything – on autism in the teen years. Whether you’re a parent, a family member, teacher, or friend, you might feel daunted as your loved one or student with autism enters (or is in the middle of) his or her teen years. That was me in 2007 as my son turned thirteen and I searched desperately for information. Nigel had been diagnosed with classic autism in 1997 at age three, at a time when I would tell parents at the playground that he had autism (as a way to explain his behavior) and they would ask, “What’s that?” It was a time when our local Barnes & Noble only had two shelves marked “special needs parenting,” and I could only find two archaic books on autism. The Internet was not the resource that it is today. There were no blogs. I couldn’t find or buy any autism books online. I felt completely alone.
Nigel was immediately enrolled in an intensive ABA-based (non-aversive) program that lasted three years. We rarely, if ever, heard spontaneous speech from him until the age of five and a half, when he slowly started to put together three-word sentences. His language acquisition challenges were compounded by his severe sensory issues, making it sometimes impossible for him to tolerate being in public places, such as grocery stores and restaurants. He indicated his distress by screaming and bolting. And in wide-open spaces where he felt more comfortable, he would wander and get lost if I was preoccupied with his younger brother, Aidan, for a second.
Somehow, we made it to the teen years. By then, Nigel’s speech had increased tremendously, more than I even dared to imagine. But we still faced many issues caused by his autism. His sensory issues had mercifully improved (due to time and his diligence in learning to filter agonizing sounds), but they were still problematic. And his social issues, including being the target of daily bullying, were so severe that I needed to homeschool him for a year and a half because the school district did not provide an acceptable alternative.
Included in the 436 posts (articles) of this website, you’ll find the story of one family’s journey with autism. You’ll discover how I approached homeschooling my autistic teenage son. You’ll read examples of letters that I wrote to his teachers and school administration. You’ll read about his quest for friendship, how we handled the bullying, IEPs, my experience as a parent advocate in Nepal, and how I finally connected with other autism parents through blogging, when I started TeenAutism.com in 2008. I’ve written about Nigel’s development over the years, as well as the therapy and medication we’ve tried. I’ve written articles about seminars I’ve attended on puberty and safety management, as well as book reviews of helpful books on autism. And I’ve written about the emotions I’ve felt as the parent of a child with autism. The fear for his safety, the sadness when he can’t connect with others, the anger at those who take advantage of him, the worrying about his future. They’re all there in the categories listed in the sidebar on the right. But there’s also the immense, consuming love and pride that I have, and the joy that I find in the otherwise small developmental coups, in the milestones reached years after his peers, and in the profound – and often profoundly funny – things that my son says. I celebrate him and all that he is as we continue this journey.
And so, I invite you to take your time and get into TeenAutism.com. It’s now a static site, meaning that I no longer blog on it, but I will keep it up indefinitely as a reference for everyone searching for information on autism in the teen years. If you’d like to read what I’m currently writing, including thoughts and experiences pertaining to my son’s transition to adulthood, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter (and receive 2 free PDFs – The Autism Parent’s Journey ebook and the first chapter of my novel, Slip). I’m also blogging at my author site, www.tanyasavko.com. I wish you the best on your journey. You are not alone.
Teen Autism is honored to be listed among Family Nurse Practitioner Program’s
Teen Autism is honored to be listed among Babble’s Top 25 Autism Blogs of 2011.