As a parent, you always want what’s best for your child or teen. But what do you do when you can’t even identify their struggles or medical condition? Many parents have trouble identifying autism in teens or adolescents because the symptoms are so varied and personalized. Additionally, some of the symptoms, such as depression, aggression, or disorganization, are common and perfectly normal in individuals experiencing the trials of being a teen.
However, if your teen or adolescent does suffer from an autism spectrum disorder, then they’re going through so much more than normal stages of growing up. Recent reports indicate that roughly 1.5 million individuals in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder—that’s about 1 in every 150 people.
If you think your teen or adolescent is suffering from a disorder on the autism spectrum, or any other behavioral condition, it’s important to seek out professional assistance. Of course, you have to know what you’re looking for, which is why we’re taking a closer look at the causes, types, symptoms, and potential treatment options for children and teens dealing with these behavioral conditions.
CAUSES OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Currently, there is no medical consensus over a direct cause of autism. Research continues to improve our understanding of these disorders, but there is no conclusive answer. However, there are certain factors that may increase a child’s risk of having an autism spectrum disorder. These factors include:
· Medical problems at birth
· Brain abnormalities
· Viral infections
· Metabolic imbalances
TYPES OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Doctors have identified four primary autism spectrum disorders: autism, Asperger’s, Rett syndrome, and disintegrative disorder.
Autism is a developmental disability that leads to social, communication, and behavioral challenges, and depending on severity, can affect individuals in many different ways.
Asperger’s is a condition on the autism spectrum that is associated with social difficulties, a desire for similarity and repetition, and restricted interests.
3. Rett syndrome
This is a rare neurological disorder that is genetic and is much more prevalent in girls rather than boys.
4. Disintegrative disorder
Also known as Heller’s syndrome, this is a rare condition that affects the development of a child or teen’s language, motor, and social skills.
SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
No two individuals experience autism in the exact same way. Autism spectrum disorders are very personal and individualized behavioral conditions and vary depending on severity, the individual’s own thoughts and feelings, and their environment. This is just one of the reasons why seeking professional assistance is so important.
While every disorder is unique, there are common symptoms for those suffering from autism spectrum disorders. Below are a few of the most prominent symptoms for teens and adolescents:
1. Sensory Stimulation
One of the most well-known symptoms of autism is a hypersensitivity and unusual connection to certain external stimuli. For example, some individuals may have trouble in loud settings or have an unusual distaste for a certain texture of food. Some might be drawn to a certain sensory experience, like the comforting feel of a blanket, to deal with stress.
Teens and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders may find it particularly challenging to communicate, both verbally, and non-verbally, in effective ways. These challenges may include trouble with eye-contact, facial expressions, and picking up on subtleties. They may also speak too formally or not understand common slang or references.
3. Social Interactions
Developing healthy social relationships can be a challenge for many with an autism spectrum disorder. Some individuals find it challenging to pick up on social cues and simply can’t relate with their peers. They may also struggle with changes to routines or expectations.
4. Repetitive Behaviors
In many individuals, unusual patterns or repetitive behaviors may indicate an autism spectrum disorder. Some teens or adolescents may repeat certain movements, like a neck twitch or hand clapping, while others may make repetitive noises that they can’t quite seem to control.
TREATING TEENS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Currently, there is no medical cure for those with autism spectrum disorders. However, there are a variety of treatment options available to help your teen or adolescent adapt to daily activities and live a healthy and happy life. Depending on their specific condition and severity, there are evidence-based treatment options available. Some of these include:
Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves counseling sessions that help individuals assess and develop methods of response for their autism symptoms. Results have even shown that some patients can eliminate certain symptoms through this approach to therapy. Psychotherapy can be conducted individually or in a group setting and can be effective in the short-term or over a period of years. Occasionally, psychotherapy is paired with medication.
2. Recreational Therapy
Contrasted with psychotherapy, RT, or therapeutic recreation, is an approach to therapy that focuses on physical movement and activity. For many teens and adolescents, it can be a challenge to put their symptoms and feelings into words. Recreational therapy clears this hurdle by letting them engage in positive and healthy physical activities that can also help them form social bonds and express themselves.
3. Creative Arts
Creative arts are one of the most effective methods for anyone to express themselves and discover new things. When teens or adolescents with autism spectrum disorders find it difficult to express themselves or make sense of their feelings, the arts can be an amazing outlet.
Various forms of creative arts, including music therapy, creative writing, drama, and art therapy, have proven beneficial for many patients. Many young people even realize undiscovered talents or passions from these creative arts therapy classes.
Depending on the severity of your teen or adolescent’s behavioral disorder, medication may be a beneficial treatment option. Various medications, such as risperidone, clozapine, or sertraline, can help manage certain symptoms associated with individuals on the autism spectrum. Of course, it’s always critically important to consult a trained medical professional before beginning or changing any prescription routine.
CONCLUSION – WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?
The daily stresses, behavioral changes, and challenges of adolescence and early adulthood are (as we can all remember) no joke. If a teen is struggling with an autism spectrum disorder on top of all that, a normal, everyday life can seem impossible and out of reach—but it’s not.
If you believe your teen or adolescent may be suffering from one of the autism spectrum disorders (or any other behavioral or mental health issue) it’s important to first have an honest and open discussion about what they’re feeling. Then, you may consider seeking out the assistance of a behavioral health center that can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.