Life as a teenager can be difficult enough – but being a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome brings a whole new set of challenges.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a social communication disorder. It was previously recognised as a disorder in its own right, but since the DSM-V was published in 2013, it is considered to fall into the category of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
However most people still tend to think of Asperger’s as a separate disorder.
Teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome lack the intuitive ability to understand the unwritten and ever-changing rules that govern human behaviour, for example, non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. As a result they find it difficult form and maintain social relationships with others who may be unaware of their challenges. They may not “get it” when an adult is angry with them.
In addition, teens with Asperger’s tend to express very few emotions on their faces, and may use few gestures to express themselves, so can be seen by others to behave in a somewhat robotic manner.otionally robotic.
Verbal communication is also difficult, with the teenager with Asperger’s usually having trouble with taking turns in conversations. They may want to do all the talking without appearing interested in what anyone else is saying, or struggle to notice the reaction of people listening to them.
They often become fixated on a special topic, interest, or object, and want to talk about that and only that, and generally appear to be focused only on their own needs.
Because they take things literally, joking, sarcasm and teasing can go over their heads and be confusing for them.
The good news is, teenagers with Asperger’s may learn some of the rules of social interaction and socialise quite well at times, and can improve with age. However remembering and practising the rules all the time can be exhausting as it does not come naturally.
Because of their ongoing challenges in social communication situations, the child with Asperger’s tends to get easily upset, frustrated and overwhelmed. On occasions due to their sensory sensitivities, they can display sudden aggressive behaviour.
As they grow older, and enter their teenage years, they may become aware of their differences, and experience ongoing anxiety which also may lead to feelings of depression.
Coping with Change
Teenagers with Asperger’s are resistant to any type of change. They like to follow routines and to know what they are doing day after day, including where they are doing it and with whom. They have difficulty in adjusting to any new situation and react badly or withdraw when conditions are changed without any form of transition.
Resisting new and different foods can be common in children and teenagers with Asperger’s; they can be very fussy, insisting on only eating a certain kind of food, a certain colour of food, and in a certain way.
Is There a Cure?
Each teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD) is different, so treatments vary. Medication is rarely given for Asperger’s itself, but may be used for any underlying disorder such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression.
While there is no known prevention or cure for Asperger’s syndrome, there are a number of ways to help your teenager. Such assistance may include helping them to cope with change, helping them manage their anger and frustration, and helping them build social communication skills.
Additionally, parents, in particular, may find it very helpful to understand the symptoms that their child displays, to learn to cope with meltdowns, and to implement specific strategies that will support their teenager.
Support is at hand, so if you and your teenager are having difficulty in coping, please make an appointment to see me. I have seen wonderful positive changes in children as they grow into young adults and useful and accepted members of the community, capable of leading constructive lives.
Author: Dr Jan Philamon, PhD, BA (Hons) Psychology, C Teach, JP (Qual) Qld, MAPS.
As a registered teacher and psychologist, Dr Jan Philamon has a wealth of experience with children, however she enjoys helping individuals and couples at any stage of life. Jan aims to help people to be the best they can be and find success: improved wellbeing, gaining a sense of empowerment that allows them to actively problem solve and manage obstacles constructively, as well as positively plan and achieve their personal and career goals.
To make an appointment with psychologist and hypnotherapist Dr Jan Philamon, try Online Booking – Loganholme or Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.