The autism spectrum, or autism spectrum disorder, is a series of symptoms with varying degrees of severity, along which a teen may be diagnosed with autism. More generally-speaking, autism itself manifests in three ways: social impairment, difficulty communicating, and repetitive behavior. Asperger’s falls under the same umbrella and is a form of autism that is characterized by “strong verbal language and intellectual ability”, setting it apart from most other forms of autism.
Autism is a brain disorder and can largely to be traced either to genetics or to certain risk factors that greatly increase the risk of autism developing in a child. No, vaccines are not one of the causes of autism. Most studies refute this claim, with more than a dozen studies dedicated to trying to find a link, each failing to do so, after a single currently discredited study using dubious methodology linked autism to the MMR vaccine. Things that have been linked to autism include:
Genetics – autism can run in the family, and the more cases of autism are present in a given family, the more likely it is to occur. Currently, about 1 in 40 children present with signs of autism. There are genetic syndromes associated with autism that may increase the risk of autism, including Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome.
Age of parents – some studies show that mothers and fathers who conceive a child at an advanced age are more likely to produce autistic offspring.
Exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy – various different chemicals raise the risk of autism, including alcohol. Antidepressants and antipsychotics have not been shown to increase risk, although such studies did reveal that mothers who were in worse general health before their pregnancy increased the risk of autism in children. Metabolic syndrome, as well as diseases like diabetes and obesity, can increase the likelihood of autism.
Prenatal viral infection – although there is lacking research, a possible non-genetic factor associated with autism is prenatal viral infection, especially the rubella virus and cytomegalovirus. These viruses activate a mother’s immune system during pregnancy, potentially hindering the development of the child in the womb.
people in the US fall within the autism spectrum
of people in the autism spectrum have either Asperger’s, or PDD/NOS
people have Asperger’s
Understand that they’re teenagers – children with autism can be difficult and exhibit frustrating behavioral issues at times. But these issues are exacerbated in the teenage years, simply due to the fact that teenagers are naturally frustrating. It’s not uncommon for teens to be rebellious and to have trouble cooperating with their parents, so understand that these issues may not be rooted in your teen’s autism, but rather, in your teen’s age. Patience is key.
Help ease your teen’s anxieties – an alarming number of teens on the autism spectrum manifest anxieties, from general anxieties and social anxiety to severe phobias. Work on creating a calming environment at home and work with your teen’s therapist or psychiatrist to adopt calming techniques that help your teen relax. Teens with autism are also bullied at a significantly higher rate than their peers, leaving them open to worsening symptoms and extreme self-esteem issues due to emotional abuse. This often leads to social withdrawal, which heightens anxiety by virtue of being alone
Help them navigate the physical changes of puberty – as children become teens, their bodies change significantly. The changes start earlier for girls, and it’s important to keep them informed about their bodies. Be sure to have several conversations about puberty with your autistic child, before their puberty completely kicks off. At the first sign of change, help them understand what’s ahead, and what it might mean. This includes learning about sex and the necessity for protection, both in the act and to avoid unwanted advances, as well as learning to manage body odor, shaving and grooming regularly, and not discussing private details – such as menstruation or pubic hair growth – in public, or at the dinner table.
The bread and butter of teen autism treatment is behavioral training, sometimes in tandem with medication, extensive care, and therapy depending on certain co-existing disorders. Autism cannot be cured as of yet, but depending on the severity of a person’s autism, they can live a normal life with minimal interference, becoming successful and highly functioning adults with a little support from friends and family. Some teens are diagnosed with forms of autism too severe to manage completely, requiring constant support and help. Most fall somewhere in the middle.
Medication is commonly prescribed to help teens cope with other non-autism symptoms that commonly occur in teens with autism. Teens with autism are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders and anxiety disorders, which is why antidepressants and prescription stimulants may be prescribed to help a teen cope. The only medication approved for usage against autism is risperidone, prescribed typically to children between 5-16 years old.
Social Skills Training and Behavioral Therapy
There are many different types of therapy specifically used to help children and teens with autism develop more normally by teaching them to inhibit their symptoms and utilize their learning ability to better fit in and develop the necessary social skills to succeed at schools, form bonds, and net a job. Social skills training, occupational training, and behavioral therapy can all be critical to a teen’s development depending on the severity of their symptoms.
It is common for young children and teens with autism to struggle with speaking, which is where speech therapy comes into handy. Speaking properly is key to working communication, and speech impediments can be a serious handicap for teens who already struggle to communicate with their peers, make friends, and hold conversations. Eliminating one major barrier can help the others fall into place over time, especially with the right training and attention.
At Paradigm Malibu, mental health professionals work together to create a welcoming environment for any teen, while thoroughly addressing their individual needs through specific treatments and therapies. Teens with autism respond best to teen autism treatment that helps them better fit in with others and learn to understand how the world works, as they struggle to express themselves properly and react to situations in a normal way. It’s significantly more challenging to help a teen with more severe forms of autism, in which case our professionals usually work directly with the family to help them figure out better ways to support their child.
A Place for Everyone
Autism is on a spectrum, which means that rather than diagnose kids with specific disorders like Asperger’s, all children on the autism spectrum are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but each exhibit a unique set of challenges and symptoms regarding repetitive behavior and social struggles. At Paradigm Malibu, we take care to individualize the teen autism treatment of each teen to more accurately correspond to their symptoms and the severity of their disorder.
Among Other Teens
Paradigm Malibu fosters a supportive environment where teens are encouraged to work together on group exercises or learn more about each other in an effort to improve social skills and help teens cope with the challenges of meeting new people out in the world throughout adulthood. Teens with autism may often worry about how to approach others, or they may fear rejection due to their struggles with communication and social behavior. It takes time and courage, but successful interactions can help build a teen’s confidence.
Our teen was recently admitted to Paradigm Malibu and is doing very well so far. I’ve been happy with the experience. I would recommend to anyone looking into teen counseling.
– J. D. B.
Why is autism so rapidly on the rise?
In 2012, autism was reported to be around 1 in 88. Less than a decade later, tallies are showing up suggesting that it’s at about 1 in 40. That climb is very significant, but the truth is that there is no real answer as to why the numbers have jumped that much. The factors for autism haven’t changed, and extensive research has shown that, contrary to some belief, vaccines don’t have an effect on autism.
The likely answer is that a continuous increase in awareness, diagnostic tools, screening, and the fact that more people are concerning themselves with finding ways to diagnose autism in girls (where it often manifests differently), means that numbers are simply on a steady climb due to current efforts to better diagnose and identify autism. It’s also important to understand that many cases of autism are mild, requiring minimal support, and that there is a large degree of variance in the severity between cases.
Has any progress been made in autism research?
Progress is happening all the time. Only just recently, scientists have discovered more information about the genes that contribute to autism. This carries over to research meant to provide a better understanding in the differences between children and adults with autism, and children and adults without autism.
These key differences give us more insight into how treatments might help, and how autism and other neurological conditions may be prevented or diminished inside the womb. In the very least, a lot of progress has been made towards further understanding how autism occurs.