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How To Diagnose A Teenager With Autism

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Talking With Other People About Your Childs Autism Diagnosis

How a children/teens can explain their autism spectrum diagnoses to peers or adults

Talking about your childs autism diagnosis with other people might feel strange or hard at first. You might wonder who to tell and what to say. These decisions are up to you and your child but getting things out in the open can really help you and your child. It can also help others to better understand your child.

Expert Advice On How To Help Your Teenager With Autism Thrive

By Sarah Kupferschmidt, MA, BCBA

As the years have progressed in my career working with children with autism spectrum disorder and their families, I have had the privilege to work with more and more teenagers.

I have met some remarkable young men and women with autism who have taught me a lot, and I have had the honor of supporting them in some of what they and their families report to be the most difficult times in their lives. The teenage years are not the easiest for most people, and when you throw in an autism diagnosis, it becomes even more complicated.

Autism In Teenage Girls

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that autistic symptoms in girls could go unnoticed.

Girls who have normal intelligence levels can mask their symptoms. Because they are of average or above-average IQ, girls with autism can appear neurotypical even though they have poor verbal and non-verbal skills.

Another contributing factor is culture. A girl who is quiet and non-responsive can be considered feminine and well-behaved, while a boy who is quiet can be seen as unusual or different.

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Evaluation Based On Observation

Parents, family members or other caregivers of children on the autism spectrum are often the first to notice delays in the usual childhood developmental milestones such as speech, eye contact, play with other children or social interactions.

Sometimes autism goes unnoticed or undiagnosed in both children and adults, especially when symptoms are mild or when the person has other disabilities or health problems. In some cases, other medical conditions such as are present, making autism difficult to recognize. As a result, ASDs may go undetected for years and may only be diagnosed during an educational impasse or a life crisis which puts a person in contact with professionals able to recognize the disorder.

Medical professionals use the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to evaluate autism spectrum disorder and the related social communication disorder . ASDs are diagnosed based on a combination of specific behaviours, communication delays and/or developmental disabilities.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asd

autism in girls

Every person with ASD is unique, so the timing and severity of the first signs and symptoms can vary widely. Some children with ASD show signs within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not become obvious until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD appear to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills and/or start losing skills.

During infancy , a child may show symptoms that include:

  • Limited or no eye contact
  • No babbling
  • Appearing not to hear
  • Playing with toys in an unusual or limited manner
  • Showing more interest in objects instead of people
  • Starting language skills but then stopping or losing those skills
  • Showing repetitive movements with their fingers, hands, arms or head

Up to 2 years of age, there may be continuing symptoms from infancy. A child may also:

  • Focus only on certain interests
  • Be unable to have reciprocal social interactions
  • Move in unusual ways, such as tilting their head, flexing their fingers or hands, opening their mouth or sticking out their tongue
  • Have no interest in playing with other children
  • Repeat words or phrases without appearing to understand them
  • Have behavioural issues, including self-injury
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions
  • Like to have things a certain way, such as always eating the same food

Possible signs of ASD at any age:

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Getting Diagnosed In Adulthood

In these videos Mai, Meg, Aishah and Lucy share their experience of being diagnosed as young adults.

Mai was diagnosed when she was 19 years old. Hear how a diagnosis helped Mai understand her past behaviours and gave her the tools to explain to others why she can struggle in social situations.

Meg was diagnosed when she was 21 years old. Hear how a diagnosis gave Meg the confidence to take on new opportunities and become motivated to help others with disabilities.


Aishah was diagnosed when they were 21 years old. Aishah explains how stereotypes about autistic people can be harmful, and how an autism diagnosis is now a desirable new trend.


Lucy was diagnosed when she was 23 years old. Lucy emphasises the need for socialising as many diagnosed with autism can feel quite isolated, and how everyone deserves to be themselves.

Dont Be Afraid To Ask For Help

And by ask for help, I dont just mean in lessons. I mean with the really serious stuff too.

Mental health is quite a focal point right now, and professionals are treating it more seriously than theyve ever done before. Especially with teenagers and young adults.

If you need guidance or counselling, ask for it. If you dont feel comfortable asking your doctor yourself, ask a parent to do it for you. Those services exist for a reason- if you need them, use them!

Random note: placed here so it can only be seen by people actually reading this. This article has been stolen from Autistic Not Weird too many times to count, so if youre reading this anywhere other than its original source, they have stolen it without my permission and are tricking readers into sharing it. Please find the original at this link.

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Autism Symptoms And Diagnosis In Adults

The mean age of autism diagnosis in the US and UK is 4 to 5, though later diagnoses do occur . Age at diagnosis depends upon variables such as symptom severity, socioeconomic status, and initial parental concerns or misidentification of symptoms as behavioral issues 60065-4/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”> Shattuck et al., 2009). Typically individuals with more severe symptom challenges receive an autism diagnosis early in life compared to those with subtle symptomatic differences . Those diagnosed later in life are thought to have less severe symptoms and a higher likelihood of reaching self-sufficiency and functionality . However, this successful adaptation to symptoms often masks an autism diagnosis and leaves many of these individuals to experience autism-related health issues without understanding the root cause .

How To Help Any Autistic Behaviour That Occurs As A Child Becomes A Teenager:

Explaining an adult’s autism spectrum diagnosis to a child or teen
  • Take a calm, quiet approach when talking to the young person
  • Give them their own space, while ensuring that they dont retreat from family life altogether
  • Limit online activities to encourage face-to-face time with people
  • Plan activities for weekends and holidays in advance and share those plans with the young person
  • Keep to a routine
  • When talking to your son or daughter, do so while engaging in a chosen activity, such as walking through the park or driving in the car with them as a front-seat passenger, rather than sitting looking at them
  • Use lots of subtle and genuine praise, as children with autism generally have low self-esteem and need more genuine praise then neuro-typical children. But remember that many autistic children dislike being singled-out in front of others and praised

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Difficulty Taking Turns When Talking

Taking turns is part of regular conversation, but figuring out when these turns stop and start can be challenging for people with autism spectrum disorder . Problems with turn-taking, such as talking too long about a topic or not holding up one end of the conversation, can be a sign of autism in anyone. Increases in social demands can make this more obvious in teens.

Working With Autistic Teens In Denial

Posted September 24, 2016

In my experience working with teens on the autism spectrum, I have come to learn that telling a teen he has a diagnosis of autism can be very upsetting for the teen. Apparently, most teens who have not been educated on autism, view autism as a form of intellectual impairment which they have come to associate with social stigma. In truth, people with autism have normal intellect, and in some cases very high intellect. The predominant issue associated with autism is a cognitive difficulty to inability to read nonverbal cues and function in social settings.

Typically, I will have the teen referred for an evaluation and when the results are consistent with my results, I find myself with an upset teen who believes that his or her future is doomed due to the stigma they believe is attached to a label of autism. I have found a lot of success in processing the problematic behaviors observed by myself, his parents and the evaluator without an emphasis on the label.

Not only is the teen in agreement that he or she struggles with these problematic behaviors or symptoms, he or she also becomes encouraged to address and improve upon these problematic behaviors or symptoms. Some teens after an evaluation, may defiantly refuse to accept the diagnosis of autism while acknowledging the identified behaviors and symptoms as issues. This is fine, so long as progress is made in these areas.

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Emotional Challenges And Differences

The teenage years can be an emotional rollercoaster. Some teens with autism are overwhelmed with emotions during this period, but others slide through with less angst than their typical peers.

It is often the brightest and most capable autistic teens who are most impacted by the emotional challenges of puberty that’s because they are most likely to actively want social acceptance and to be keenly aware of rejection.

In addition to the usual teenage ups and downs, teens with autism may experience some of these additional challenges:

  • Emotional immaturity that manifests itself in childish interests or emotional responses that would be expected in a much younger child
  • High levels of anxiety, especially when faced with unexpected demands or changes in routine
  • Difficulty reading social signals which can result in accusations of inappropriate blurting, interrupting, touching, or stalking
  • Bullying, teasing, and/or social exclusion based on “weird” behavior, speech patterns, and/or interests
  • Extreme emotional responses to stress that can manifest in aggression, tantrums , and/or “bolting”
  • Depression which can lead to suicidal intentions or actions

Many of these issues can be mitigated or even resolved if they are addressed early and creatively. Some options include:

Other People Find Stuff Hard Too

Pin on Children &  Parenting

This is an extension to you are not alone. Finding things difficult isnt just an autism thing. It often looks like other people arent struggling with anything, but a lot of those people are acting. Many, many people are so good at wearing a brave face that its difficult to tell whats actually going through their head.

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Have An Autism Assessment

An autism assessment is where a team of autism specialists check if you or your child are autistic.

An assessment team may:

  • ask about any problems you or your child are having
  • watch how you or your child interact with other people
  • speak to people who know you or your child well, such as family, friends, your GP or your child’s teachers

At the end of the assessment, you’ll be given a report saying if you or your child are autistic.

New Focus Academy Can Help

New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders. While many teens with autism have tried to mask the symptoms they experience, identifying situations they struggle with helps us create personalized treatment plans to help them meet their personal goals. The program utilizes positive reinforcement to increase the students self-esteem and independence. The social skills that teens on the autism spectrum learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interactions, organization, and improve their self-management skills. Students are given the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to foster and maintain healthy relationships and lifestyle habits.

For more information, call us at 313-6749. We can help your family today!

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What Are The Signs Of Aspergers In Teens

According to the CDC, autism affects one in 59 children.Many children receive a diagnosis when theyre young, but you may not notice unusual behavior or question if your child has Aspergers syndrome until your child becomes a teenager. Learn the signs of Aspergers and what steps you can take if your teen has the disorder.

Diagnosing Autism In Teenagers

How to Get an Adult Autism Diagnosis

The process of getting diagnosed with autism during the teenage years is no different from that of getting a diagnosis at an early age, but it will involve more questions about the teens behavior in school and how he/she interacts with peers.

A formal diagnosis might involve one or more experts in the field of autism such as developmental pediatricians, psychiatrist, psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists.

The diagnostic procedures can include:

  • An interview with parent or caregiver
  • Actual observation of all interactions with others
  • A physical exam to rule out other medical conditions
  • A developmental screening

Once a teen has been diagnosed, a qualified pediatrician can recommend how to move forward with beneficial behavioral therapies and treatments.

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Getting Diagnosed With Autism As An Older Teen Or Young Adult

What happens when a diagnosis of autism is delayed or overlooked for autistic teenagers or adults?

Ideally, all autistic kids would get diagnosed as young as possible, hopefully by age three years or younger.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern.

Concerned About Your Childs Development?

That way they can start therapy or get accomodations, if necessary, as soon as possible.

The Potential For Seizures Can Increase During Puberty

The chance of your autistic teen having seizures during puberty is four to one. The cause is not known but is believed to be brought about by hormonal changes in the body.

Teens with autism might also experience subclinical seizures during puberty. Subclinical seizures are seizures that are too faint that they can go unnoticed. Several diagnostic tests can be done to find out if a teen with autism is experiencing seizures so if you have a concern, contact your childs doctor.

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How Teen Autism Is Treated

Therapists are adept at helping their patients to process strong emotions. Teens who feel upset or worried about an autism diagnosis may enjoy talking through those feelings with a professional. They may emerge from these sessions feeling more confident and capable.

Treatment does more than help people feel comfortable with a diagnosis. For example, researchers report that people diagnosed with autism often struggle with:

  • Peer relationships.
  • Conversation skills.
  • Unusual speech.

Any or all of these features could be a target for a therapeutic intervention. Applied behavior analysis therapy is made to help people with autism both identify and amend a specific behavior.

A teen who talks in a high, strangled voice might aim to talk at a reasonable pitch. A therapist could identify that pitch and hold many practice sessions to help the teen master that skill. With that addressed, the two could move on to making friends or handling the give and take of conversation.

These sessions arent punitive. Theyre made to give teens with autism tangible, real-world skills they can put to use in their everyday lives. The sessions will certainly be helpful, and your teen may even find them fun.

Autistic Teenagers & Adults

What Does Mild Autism Mean?

So what happens when an autism diagnosis is delayed?

Among the responses were many from people who didnt get diagnosed until they were adults. Some had suspicions about their condition growing up. For others, the diagnosis was a revelation as much as it was a relief.

When An Autism Diagnosis Comes In Adulthood

For one thing, you hopefully quickly understand that you are not alone, which becomes easier as you read the stories of other adult diagnosed autistic people.

If you know youre autistic, are beginning to wonder, share similarities with autistic people, or want to support an adult autistic friend or family memberor if you simply want to know why its so important that autistic adults know were autisticthis book is for you.

Knowing Why: Adult-Diagnosed Autistic People on Life and Autism

And you learn that support is available if you need it, no matter what stage of life you are in, whether you are in high school, starting college, looking for a job, or getting married, etc.

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Discover Seven Stars Can Help

Discover Seven Stars RTC is a small residential treatment program for young men and women ages 13-17 struggling with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Our program, based on positive psychology, provides acute care stabilization, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, and skill building. These various programs and therapies help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and personal management. Seven Stars provides students with individualized access to the resources they need to transition to the real-world practicing healthier habits and self-control. We can help your family today!For more information about autism in teens, contact us at 844-601-1167.

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