Autism + Adolescence


by Lillian Csernica on April 21, 2013

I love my son John so much.  He’s come so far from the days when we had to have a behavioral specialist and a one to one aide come to our home and “play” kindergarten with him until he got the hang of his first icon-based schedule.  He’s become popular at his middle school for his participation in dress-up days.  On one Superhero Day, he was the only person in the entire school who dressed up!  He went as “John-zuka,” with a costume he and my sister had put together.  (She sews, I don’t.)  Thanks to him, his grade won five spirit points.  John was the Man of the Hour, much like Harry Potter winning points for Gryffindor.

Now John is fourteen.  Oh Lord, is he fourteen.  

Because of John’s anxiety issues, he bites his fingernails.  We got him to stop doing that by convincing him if he kept biting his nails he couldn’t paint his nails black this Halloween as part of his planned Frankenstein costume.  So now he’s chewing on his cuticles to the point of drawing blood.  It took three of us to get the Band-Aids on his fingers last night.  Two to hold his arms and one to actually apply the Band-Aids.  The boy is six feet tall, built like a wrestler, strong as an ox, and very very stubborn.  He almost lifted me off my feet, and I’m no petite little china doll.

Remember when you were a teenager?  Not a child, but not an adult?  Caught between all the things you had to leave behind, confused about everything that was coming at you?  And then there’s the whole issue of hormones and a new awareness of the opposite sex and learning all the social rules that go along with being just classmates or friends or boy/girl-friends or what we used to call “going steady.”  So  much to learn, so many opportunities for confusion, for mixed signals, for embarrassment and humiliation.

Now add to all that the symptoms and processing disorders of autism.

This fall John will enter high school.  It’s a whole new stage of life.  He already has a lot going for him, and he will have a good team of teachers, therapists, and caseworkers to back him up.  There will be the hard days, the days when frustration and anxiety get the best of him.  There will be days when I’m so exasperated I think my head will explode.

I love John.  On the hard days, I’ll try to make sure I give him extra hugs or praise or whatever it takes.

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1 Comment

Filed under Family, Special needs

One response to “Autism + Adolescence

  1. I do remember… being a teenager frankly sucked.

    Odd bit of advice: let him bite his nails. Let him do whatever weird things he can come up with to help him handle his anxiety, provided they aren’t causing permanent damage to him or putting anyone else in danger. I /still/ bite my hands when I’m stressed. When I was a teenager, I took razor-blades to my skin when I couldn’t endure my mood swings anymore. And believe it or not, it helped. I still sometimes need a bit of pain to ground me, but I don’t need it to be that intense anymore.

    My hope for John is that he finds friends on the spectrum– in “real life” and online. Being able to communicate with people who share my experiences of depression, anxiety, and sensory overload made all the difference in the world to my being able to cope with and understand these things. No therapist, no matter how well trained, can have the same impact as a peer who has been through the same experiences you are struggling with.

    Like

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