According to the CDC, autism affects one in 59 children.
Many children receive a diagnosis when they’re young, but you may not notice unusual behavior or question if your child has Asperger’s syndrome until your child becomes a teenager. Learn the signs of Asperger’s and what steps you can take if your teen has the disorder.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
An autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Asperger’s is also known as high functioning autism. It’s a developmental brain disorder that affects boys and girls in all demographics. Generally, kids with autism exhibit social, behavioral and communication challenges.
12 Signs of Asperger’s in Teens
Asperger’s may go unnoticed until your child reaches puberty. That’s when he or she faces physical and hormonal changes along with more social and educational challenges.
Every teen experiences Asperger’s differently, but general signs may include:
- Trouble taking turns during conversations
- Difficulty interpreting social cues, body language, tone of voice and facial expressions
- Struggles to empathize with or understand the perspective of others
- Difficulty staying on task and understanding or following directions
- Inappropriate eye contact
- Behavior problems, including aggression, outbursts or isolation
- Struggle to regulate emotions
- Obsessions or repetitive behaviors
- Rigid need for routine and structure
- Lack of motor coordination
- Sensory sensitivity to textures, lights, and sounds
How to Seek Help for Asperger’s in Teens
As soon as you suspect that your teen may have Asperger’s, take steps to get help. Your teen can learn essential skills and receive therapy that helps him or her become a fully functioning adult.
1. See your doctor
Share your concerns, including any specific incidents that could support an Asperger’s diagnosis. Your doctor can review your child’s developmental history and recommend testing to verify an Asperger’s diagnosis.
2. Get an official diagnosis
Your child’s doctor may partner with a psychologist to assess and test your child to see if he or she does have Asperger’s. The multidisciplinary assessment uses categories to determine if your child has Asperger’s, and it involves:
- Measuring your child’s strengths and weaknesses
- Reviewing details about your child’s developmental history
- Watching your child interact with others in the office, school, and home
- Interviewing parents about the child’s actions, behaviors, and attitude
- Questioning teachers about the child’s behavior and interactions at school
Expect the entire diagnosis process to take several months to a year, depending on the demand for services in your area. In most cases, your child’s health insurance can cover the testing and assessments.
3. Start therapy
After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor will suggest beneficial therapies that meet your child’s specific needs. Several therapies that help your teen learn essential skills include:
Social skills training
Through participation in one-on-one or group sessions, your child will learn self-expression and how to interact with others.
Your child will discover how to hold a two-way conversation, recognize social cues and speak with an up-and-down pattern rather than a flat tone.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
By altering your child’s way of thinking, your child will discover how to control repetitive behaviors and emotions and handle obsessions and outbursts.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
This technique encourages positive communication and social skills while discouraging your child’s adverse behaviors.
Certain medications can address symptoms related to depression, anxiety and other conditions that affect your child.
Parent education and training
You will learn how to help your child succeed and deal with the challenges and stress of living with a teen with Asperger’s.
4. Prepare for success in school
Discuss your child’s diagnosis with your child’s school administrator or special education director, and ask for an educational evaluation.
An evaluation will reveal your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and guides the school in creating an individualized education program (IEP). The IEP provides accommodations like sensory breaks, longer test time or a quiet lunchroom experience that help your child manage school successfully.
5. Connect with support
Join a local support group, and connect your teen and yourself with help. Your child’s therapist may facilitate a social skills group, or you can ask the doctor, therapist or school for information on peer groups.
How to Talk About Asperger’s in Teens
Include your child in all aspects of the diagnosis process, and keep the communication lines open. Ensure your child understands what’s happening and why, and remind him or her to ask questions if necessary.
You’ll also want to empower your teen to build relationships with his or her healthcare providers and therapists. Cooperation will improve the outcomes of therapy. Your child can also talk through his or her feelings about the diagnosis, which may include confusion, anxiety or frustration.
Additionally, reassure your child that Asperger’s is a syndrome and not the result of something he or she did, and remind your child of your love.
You will also want to focus on your child’s strengths as you work together to address challenges. Your child already knows that he or she is different from other teens, but your child is not inferior and possesses a variety of talents.
For example, your child may excel at solving complicated math problems, be able to calm animals or demonstrate an aptitude for computer repair.
Help with Asperger’s in Teens
Asperger’s affects your child in numerous ways. If you suspect your child has Asperger’s, take steps to gain a diagnosis and treatment as you support your child’s success in life.