Raising a youngster with autism always has its ups and downs. There will always be moments when you see so much progress in your teenager. But there can also be times when you feel like there are no improvements. 

Confusion, fear, fatigue, and stress are common among those who give care to teens with autism. And you are not alone! 2.7%, 1.67 million, or 1 in 37 children in the US, have autism. Imagine how many caregivers, parents, and family members care for these special kids. And the care does not end when they become teenagers.

Empowering Autistic Teens: Building Independence and Self-Advocacy

For autistic teens, it is no longer about learning how to read or write. It is not about correcting their behavior or learning how to do this and that. It becomes more about empowering themselves so they can stand on their own. 

Building independence and practicing self-advocacy are vital skills for autistic teens to learn. These skills will prepare them for adulthood. So, how can you, as a parent or caregiver, help them achieve this? Let’s learn the facts.

Understanding Autism in Teens

Some caregivers find autism to worsen as a child grows older. In reality, it is not the condition that worsens. It is the behavior of the child that changes because they become teens. Maturity plays a big factor when trying to understand autistic teens.

At this stage, they want more independence. Parents and caregivers can see improvements in their children’s daily living skills and behaviors. Yet, there are still challenges to face. Preparing them for puberty and helping them with the demands of school are some things to think of. Grooming, personal hygiene, and maturing emotions are also part of your stress and challenges.

As your special teens grow and mature, empowering them will be vital. This will help them cope with the challenges in their daily lives as teens. Let us now learn how to help them further improve their independence.

Building Independence in Autistic Teens

You, as the parent or caregiver of an autistic teen, can help them improve their independence. You can try these tips:

Improve Communication

The teen’s ability to communicate will help them express themselves better. Strengthening their communication will need less of you to express their desires, preferences, or feelings. Help them improve communication by always talking to them. You can also use visual aids and sign language.

Improve Self-Care Skills

Taking care of themselves will bring their independence to a higher level. Teach them personal hygiene and grooming. Make sure that these become their habits.

Practice Money Skills

Your autistic teen should know how to handle money to be independent. This is important, especially when they are outside their homes. You can start by allowing them to pay at the grocery store or compute their weekly savings. Step by step, your teen will gradually understand how important money skills are.

Teach Safety Skills

Autism in children demonstrates a lack of awareness of danger. Get rid of this by teaching them safety skills. You can teach and practice travel safety lessons. Teach them how to read signs, other crucial safety indicators, and public transit. Simple safety instructions and practice will help them become independent outdoors.

Work on Chores

It may be in school, home, or community, but your teen needs to learn that they have chores or tasks. This will also teach them to become responsible. Show them how to do their tasks and when to do them. This will make the tasks part of their habits.

Promoting Self-Advocacy Skills in Autistic Teens

Aside from building independence, autistic teens can empower themselves through self-advocacy. This makes them able to represent themselves. Instead of having someone else handle their business, they can speak for themselves and manage their affairs.

Making your autistic teen self-advocate is important, but it will not happen immediately. They need to learn skills and habits they should form to be aware of self-advocacy. You can help them by:

Teach them the freedom to make decisions.

Let them choose what they want. You can give them options or let them think about what to choose. Teach them that they can also say no and disagree in a conversation. Role-playing activities will help them develop rational thinking when making decisions.

Encourage them to speak up.

Self-advocacy means representing yourself. Allow them to say what they feel and think. It is even better to keep asking for their opinions. They will be inspired to express their opinions as a result. It will also make them feel that their opinions matter.

Help them understand other people’s opinions.

As you teach them to speak and stand up for themselves, you should also teach them the value of respect for others. You have to make them understand that people have different opinions from theirs. Teach them that this is okay and normal. This will help them reason things out and even negotiate.

The Best Tips for Empowering a Teen With Autism

Empowering your autistic teen means supporting them to become better and more independent individuals. Having the knowledge, judgment, and capacity to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, or being confident and competent, is what is meant by empowerment. Let these tips help you, as a parent or caregiver of an autistic teen, empower them as they grow into young adults.

Be Your Teen’s Best Support

Showing confidence in them will make them feel confident in themselves. Teens with autism would feel alone or confused at times. Make sure that they feel your support in every way. Support them, but make them practice their independence.

Be Your Teen’s Mentor

Your autistic teen needs your mentoring as they navigate difficult life transitions, such as adjusting to upsetting changes at home or becoming adults. Teach them life skills, strategies, and methods to make their daily lives easier, safer, and happier.

Be There for Them

As you teach them independence and self-advocacy, it is still best to make them feel you are there for them. Give them your time and attention. Learn to listen more to them. Make them feel you value them and want the best for them even more as they grow into adults.

Empowering Autistic Teens: Final Thoughts

Parenting or giving care to an autistic teen can be challenging. But when you equip yourself with knowledge, understanding, patience, and perseverance, you will see the fruits of your hard labor. As your teen becomes empowered and independent, you can attest that all the effort, time, and energy you put into them pay off well.

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