The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), written by international experts in mental health, classified autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a developmental disorder in which the symptoms are visible within the first two years of their life. Although the exact cause of autism is still unknown, there are a few common behavioural traits in autistic people, in differing degrees.

Children and teens who have autism find it difficult to communicate and interact with people. They are stressed in social situations, restricted in their interests, exhibit repetitive behaviour and find it challenging to function in group environments such as schools, social situations, offices, etc.

The disorder is called “spectrum” because symptoms have a wide range from mild to severe. Below are some of their typical behavioural traits.

Typical ASD Behavioural Traits

  • Inability to make consistent eye contact
  • Exhibit short attention spans
  • Rarely enjoy activities
  • Inability to show objects to others
  • Inability to respond to people when they are addressed by their names
  • Inability to respond effectively to situations
  • Find it difficult to speak coherently or have an interactive conversation
  • Fixated about their topic of discussion without waiting for a response from others
  • Expressions and gestures do not align with spoken words
  • Monotonous, expressionless (robotic and repetitive) way of speaking
  • Repeating words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Focused interest in specific topics such as numbers, facts or parts of objects
  • Anxious about the slightest change in routine
  • Hypersensitivity to light, noise, temperature or clothing
  • More sensitivity than other people to light, noise, clothing, or temperature
  • Fitful sleep, irritability at the slightest

ASD Advantages

  • Memorize specific things of interest quicker than the average person and retain information for long periods of time
  • Quick learning through visual and audio aids
  • Excellence in math, science, numbers, music or art

Challenges Face by Autistic Teenagers

The earlier autistic children are diagnosed and treated, the better. In their teenage years, parents find their children, particularly hard to deal with. But experts in the field say that this is because, like all teenagers, raging hormones have a part to play. Like all teens, autistic teens demand more independence. One way to handle them is by giving them more control when possible. 

Adults with autism are generally less irritable, repetitive, hyperactive and anxious than the teens. But teens face more difficulty in dressing up by themselves, keeping track of money or even making a cup of tea. Some may show signs of epilepsy, but most don’t. What’s a bigger challenge for teens is proper sleep, which interferes with daily functioning and cognitive functioning. They find it hard to change classes in school every hour, keep track of books, planning, motor skills. It is essential for teachers and parents to help them by breaking projects into smaller steps, marked by the date. They need help with classwork and homework and in interacting socially without panicking. 

As they grow and become more capable, it is hard for the parents to let go as their children turn more resistant to their help. It helps to work with a certified counsellor or specialist to deal with autistic children and help guide them. Many autistic teens are known to have performed exceptionally well in areas of their interest. Many others have a fantastic memory, but struggle with their motor skills and reading comprehension, or things outside their interest.

Related: 6 Benefits of Gardening for Autistic Children

Shelley B. Ortved: Speech-Language Disorders Treatments, GTA

Does your child have autism or a speech problem? If there a lisp, stammer, delayed speech, difficulty in pronouncing words or following a language, call us for speech therapy to help overcome the problem. Shelley Ortved is dedicated to working with parents to reduce communication challenges in children of all ages. Browse through the website to learn about flexible appointment hours and services.

Related: What is Stimming in Autism? Is it Harmful or Comforting?