The teen years can be a turbulent time for families and a particularly challenging time for neurodivergent youth. From new social pressures to their changing bodies, autistic teens experience unique social, cognitive, and emotional changes. However, autistic teens can thrive during their adolescent years when supported and safe.
Here are 12 tips to support autistic teens:
- Be patient. The teen years are difficult, and your teen needs your support while navigating school, stresses, and social life.
- Provide for their sensory needs. Sensory items such as fidgets can reduce anxiety and overstimulation. Be mindful of any sensory sensitivities to tastes, sounds, and textures and allow them space from sensory overwhelm.
- Break chores down into smaller tasks and use visuals when helpful. This encourages executive functioning skills without being overwhelming.
- Show interest in their passions. Take time to listen, learn, and connect.
- Validate. Their emotions and struggles are real, so acknowledge, listen, and show empathy. Hold space for them when they need to talk or connect. Monitor changes in mood, and for more information on mental health see our blog on Mental Health Resources.
- Support their identity, pronouns, and name choices. Many neurodivergent teens identify as 2SLGBTQIA+.
- Advocate, and encourage your teen to self-advocate. Ensure adequate school and mental health supports are in place.
- Plan ahead for transitioning to adulthood.
- Talk to them about their changing bodies and emotions. Below are some resources on puberty and autism.
- Speak openly about sex and dating. Answer questions and provide resources.
- Encourage good sleep hygiene. Adequate rest promotes better mental health.
- Let them take the lead in activities they enjoy. Teens strive for independence and autonomy.
Below are some resources to help you or your loved ones navigate the transition into the teen years.
ACT Video: Autism and sexual health
Ask an Autistic: Youtube Channel
Autism AND Adolescence| Purple Ella (VIDEO)
Autism in Teens
Community Mental Health Resources for Autistic Youth | Anxiety Stress and Autism Program (ASAP) (ubc.ca)
Find Support BC
Growing Up: Teens with ASD
QMunity Youth Services
A Suicide and Non-Suicidal Self Injury Resource Guide for Autistic Youth and their Caregivers
A Trauma Resource Guide for Autistic Youth and their Caregivers
Anxiety Resource Guide for Autistic Youth and their Caregivers
Child & Youth Mental Health – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)
Child and Teen Mental Health BC
Getting Help During Mental Health Crisis for Children/Youth (Island)
HereToHelp BC provides health literacy resources on provincial mental health services as well as common mental health concerns. Check out their Resource Library for information, workbooks, and wellness modules.
How Can You Support Your Teenager
Kids Help Phone BC
Mood Disorders Association of BC (MDABC) – Intake: you can self-refer or refer your child using this intake form. Wait times are very minimal: Intake Form
Youth in BC Chat
prevent bullying and discrimination, promote kindness (witsprogram.ca)
Understanding Autism: Secondary Teachers Guide
A Handbook for Autistic Youth Transitioning to Adulthood
A Transition to Adulthood Resource Guide for Autistic Youth and their Caregivers
Community Living BC
PATH and MAPs training – ImagineACircle
See more on this on our blog: Transitioning into Adulthood
Kids Health: Teens
Sex Ed Guide
Sex Ed Toolkit for Autistic Teens
ADHD Coaching (adhdcoachvictoria.ca)
Alexa Skills for Therapy – The OT Toolbox
Body Doubling | Find a [virtual] body double!
Developing Executive Function Skills: Get Ready, Do, Done — SLP Corner
Executive Function & Social Skills » West Coast Centre For Learning (wccl.ca)
Executive Function Coaching – Fraser Academy X – FAx
Executive Function Coaching – The OT Toolbox
Executive Function Tests – The OT Toolbox
Executive Functioning Apps
FLOWN Discover a new way to think and work
Understanding Neurodivergence & Executive Functioning – Microsoft 365
Visual Daily Planner | Tiimo (tiimoapp.com)
What is Body Doubling? Why is it so good for ADHD?