A Guide to Finding Help for Autistic Teens

As a parent, we spend much of our time thinking about our children. We worry about their struggles. We think about how we can celebrate their strengths. We hope that the world will accept them for exactly who they are. Parents of teens with autism have a unique set of questions and concerns for their children. There are educational concerns, health concerns, behavioral concerns, and even financial concerns that are specific to teens with autism. 

When your teen is first diagnosed, you will likely find yourself fulfilling many roles: care coordinator, therapist, parent, teacher, etc. One of the most important roles you will have is serving as your teen’s advocate. Advocating for your teen will be a lifelong journey that will require different skills depending on your teen’s needs. The best way that you can advocate for your teen is to understand that you are not expected to do everything on your own. While you can pursue your own education on autism and learn about your teen’s personal needs, it is also beneficial to look into resources that can support you and your family. 

Finding Help for Your Teen

Autism is a disorder that can impact one’s life from every angle. Teens may need special attention and guidance during their adolescent years. The teenage years especially can be years in which learning to self-navigate and manage hormones is very overwhelming and exhausting. As a parent you may feel helpless and unsure how to best help your child, but there are resources you can seek out to help you make the best choice for your teen’s treatment.

Online resources. There are many sources of information about autism on the internet. In fact, there are so many sources, it can be difficult to sort out the professional sources from the average person with an opinion. When searching for online resources, look for accredited and scientific affiliations. For example, a podcast presented by a clinical professional will be a better source of information than a blog post from someone who has an opinion about how to best help teens with autism. You can also find support online in a different way. Teens with autism may find support through joining an online gaming group or engaging in social media with their peers. In person social interactions can be challenging for teens with autism which can lead to them feeling lonely and isolated. Online interactions can help them create a community where they can feel more comfortable and confident. 

Find a Support Group. Whatever your family structure, you can expect you will need support and help at many times in your journey as a parent of a teen with autism. It’s important to remember to maintain relationships with your family, friends and community in order for your support network to be there when you need them the most. Try to find parents of teens with your teen’s level of autism as you’re making friends. These people will be a wealth of information for you and a lifeline. It can be helpful to connect with others who understand your experiences and can be there to help you problem solve, or just listen when you need it. Support groups are also beneficial for your teen. There, they will be able to speak freely about their struggles without fear of judgement. Everyone in their support group will have experienced something similar and they can help each other problem solve and process issues. 

Work with your child’s school. There is a wide variety of ways this disorder manifests itself, people on different parts of that spectrum have different strengths and weaknesses. No matter where a child falls on the spectrum, however, parents must work with schools to ensure students receive the education they deserve. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act opened the door for other legislation to be enacted that helps children with disabilities. First and foremost, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), autistic children are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education meaning students should have access to educational programs that best fit their special needs. Additionally, the law calls for education to be provided in the least restrictive environment, so students who have disabilities have the opportunity to learn among their counterparts who don’t have the same issues. In order to make this possible, classrooms may need to be tailored to the autistic students’ needs. In order to determine the nature of the accommodations necessary to remove restrictions, and create a pathway for academic success, schools are mandated to work with parents to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that acts as a roadmap for what the school will provide to the student and what measurable goals the student will be expected to meet during the academic year.

Asking for help can be very hard, especially at first. Don’t hesitate to use whatever support is available to you. For some parents of teens with autism that may be looking into other levels of care for their child. 

The Benefits of Therapeutic Treatment

When trying to find the best help for your teen, it may be beneficial to speak with a residential treatment program. A residential program for teens with autism is designed to help students gain the skills necessary for greater independence and success. Students engage in educational, experiential, vocational, and social training based on their unique abilities and needs. Residential programs use a clinically sophisticated approach to helping students build independence and emotional resilience provides opportunities for them to grow and thrive. 

Therapeutic treatment may be a good fit for your child. A medical professional can help you determine this through proper assessment and evaluation. The benefits of therapeutic treatment are extensive.

Here are some ways in which this treatment type can provide help for autistic teens:

  • Build social skills. Building social skills is a valuable part of adolescent development. This is a step towards their ability to be independent. Therapeutic treatment allows autistic teens to get individualized therapy and coaching on how to appropriately practice social skills in the real world.
  • Develop independence. Therapeutic programs create a practice model in which students are able to create meaningful goals and work towards independence. In these programs, adolescents may be faced with simple and some complex tasks in which they will learn how to self-navigate and complete.
  • Implement evidence-based techniques. Sending your child to a therapeutic program means putting them under the watch of qualified professionals who have extensive knowledge and research-based practices that can truly help your teen.
  • Create relationships. It is important that you know therapeutic programs do not mean “sending your child off” to isolation. These programs allow them to be around others who experience the same struggles in which they can learn from and bond with. They will also develop meaningful connections with therapists, coaches, peers, and community members in the area.
  • Practice life skills. A therapeutic treatment program can help your teen develop important life skills that they will use at home, in school, and in their community. Skills like learning to prepare a meal, creating a schedule, doing laundry, and exercising help teens create healthier lives for themselves after treatment. 
  • Positive reinforcement. Too often a child’s diagnoses and limitations are the defining factor of identity. Teens can benefit from basing treatment of the concepts of Positive Psychology. Find a treatment program that highlights your teen’s strengths and uses them to create a treatment plan based on building confidence and motivation for personal growth. 
  • Academic success. Some teens with autism may struggle in a typical classroom. They may feel overwhelmed by visual or auditory stimuli. They may have difficulty receiving the attention they need to thrive in their academics. The first step toward a diploma is developing a passion for learning and a willingness to tackle challenging problems. A residential program will use engaging, hands-on settings to teach traditional subjects, including math, language arts, and social studies. 

Successful autism programs for teens begin with the expectation that every person can thrive given the proper resources and guidance. By reinforcing healthy social behaviors, spotlighting each student’s unique strengths, and offering a diverse array of educational opportunities, New Focus Academy creates an environment that works for your child. 

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. The program utilizes positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence. The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction, 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. 

Our approach focuses on helping students gain independence in daily activities and their social lives. Subsequently, students develop confidence and self-esteem as they find success in accomplishing activities independently. As they do this, they start to feel empowered, thus stopping this feeling of being a “mistake” in its tracks. For more information please call us at (435) 850-4327.