Skip to main content

Top ten things parents need to know about raising a teenager


Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum book.

Often times, parents and educators become concerned when a teen on the autism spectrum starts acting differently. A nice quiet son is no longer passive; a sweet girl starts refusing to follow the routine that has been set for a while. More than likely, their autism isn’t getting worse, its plain old teenage behavior. Trust me, I know. I have two high school students living with me: one is severely impacted by hormones, the other by autism.

I hear it at conferences all the time. “His autism is getting worse! What should I do? Help, me please,” they plead. Their concerns are real, but often are the same concerns that parents of neurotypical teens have. It is harder, obviously, with a teen with autism.  When we are working so hard to help our child to develop and reach his potential as best they can, it is hard to remember to look past the disability to the developmental level the child is at. I have to remind them, “Of course your child is becoming non-compliant; he is not becoming more autistic, he is becoming a teenager!” It is often much harder to manage these aspects with a child with autism, but  we do need to somehow take a step back and analyze what is going on. Neurotypical teens with autism may be emotionally at a different developmental level, but their bodes are maturing at the same rate, and those teenage hormones are kicking in. I have put together a list to help parents figure out if what they are seeing is autism getting worse, or normal teenage behavior. Please read it with a sense of humor. It’s my Top Ten List of Things Parents Need to Know about Raising a Teenager:

10) Teenage behavior cannot be blamed on mercury poisoning or your in-laws genetics.
9) Some teenagers care about smelling good and keeping a clean room. Or not.
8) Some teenagers like to make their own choices. Usually, they are not the same as yours.
7) Non-compliance is normal teenage behavior.
6) Teenagers do not learn good organizational skills through osmosis.
5) Moodiness is a normal teenage byproduct.
4) Self-regulation is a needed life skill not practiced by teenagers.
3) Teenagers are never hungry the same time as the rest of the family.
2) Masturbation is normal teenage activity.
1) As a parent you will survive your child’s teenage years. Barely.

This list may help you think differently about your teen and what behaviors he is showing. Meanwhile, if you need more help with challenges pertaining to your teen on the spectrum, you may want to take a peek at my book Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. Remember you WILL survive the ten years!


  • Joan Campbell 5 years ago

    Yes it does show a big difference when they go through puberty and adolosense. My older boy who is not autistic still behaves like he was years ago . Please clean your room and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

  • Joan Campbell 5 years ago

    Jack my autistic boy is behaving like a typical teenager but at least he is aware and goes to his bedroom for any funny business. Trying to get him to sleep at night is a nightmare and worse trying to get him up in the morning. I don't think his seizure medication is helping him fully as he seems tired a lot of the time.

  • Chantal Sicile-Kira 5 years ago

    My son goes through periods when he is tired and periods when he is up all night - we used to be able to tell when there was a full moon just by how he was not wanting to sleep and getting up all night. But you are right to check medication. Have you tried exercise? melatonin? Jeremy definitely sleeps better if he has had good exercise during the day - he actually can go to the gym now and does treadmill and weights (with someone, not on his own). He walks slow in street, but keeps up pace on treadmill, so better exercise. I have been thinking of getting an eliptical machine for home (on sale or second hand) if we have to drop the gym or lose our respite hours (you know how the economy is... and i California we are waiting for the ax to drop)!

  • Joan Campbell 5 years ago

    Exercise does help and he has a big trampoline in the garden and he likes to kick the ball to me. We also spend time walking alot outside and just recently canoed up the canal but Jack hasn't got the hang of using oars yet LOL.

  • Richard 5 years ago

    My wife and I have 4 kids. We have a set of twins boys now 13. One of our twin sons has autism the other does not. Our son that has autism will tell you he does not have autism because he wants very badley to be like his brother who has freinds.I am sick of said main stream articles that have a guided agenda. I dont blame any one for my sons conditions. I wish they would stop shoving meds at him and offer more actual help. When you get close to truth & complain toO much some how propblems start coming around. We need more activities for atuistic kids. They do not "fit in" and never will. So we need more structured skilled helpers. Kids are for sure born with autism, its not a complaint or choice. As a dad I do not want anyones tolerance I just want more life skills schooling.Some kids will never fit in and thats ok too.