3 Approaches to Navigate Teen Years in Autism

Here’s what you need to prepare now for the teen and adult years, and empower their future.

The baby years might have been challenging, but when it comes to parenting teens and young adults with autism you might think you need an entirely new playbook.

That’s where the experts at our Living With Autism Workshop are a big help. Three sessions during the event focused on behavior, health care as they get older and making sure they have a voice in their own future. 

Transitioning 101: How to Pave Your Child’s Path to Adulthood

Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper, pediatrician and Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities medical director, and Dr. Jannel Phillips, pediatric neuropsychologist, both of Henry Ford Health, share a comprehensive health care transition process from pediatric to adult care.

Main takeaways:

  • The process of moving from a pediatric to an adult approach to health care, called health care transition, should begin as early as 12 years old and extend until about 22 or 23 years old. 
  • There’s often little, if any, planning and preparation for health care transition. The goal of healthcare transition for the young person is to develop skills and abilities to manage their own health to the best of their ability. 
  • Parental involvement is still key. The more you remain involved by overseeing the health care transition, the easier it will be for your adolescent to learn skills to be involved in their health decisions. 

Supported Decision-Making: Giving Autistic Adults a Voice

Mary Shehan and Kaiden Tolbert, Center for Youth Voice, Youth Choice (CYVYC) Youth Ambassador, both of the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, are passionate about making sure young people get a say in their lives. Tolbert, for one, is a young person with autism doing great things.

Main takeaways:

  • Supported decision-making is a way to support people with disabilities that honors their right to make life decisions. It provides the support they need but also helps them remain as independent, self-determined and autonomous as possible.
  • Guardianship is not your only option when it comes to your child’s future.
  • Talking about supported decision-making and alternatives to guardianship really starts early to help young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities think through what they want to be when they grow up. 

Disruptive Behavior in ASD Teens: A Crisis Management Tool Kit for Parents

The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges for families. Behaviors that were manageable during childhood can reach crisis levels during the teenage years. Dr. Melissa Hendriks of Henry Ford Health provides expert insight.

Main takeaways:

  • Try to think about the challenging behavior as a response or a form of communication, rather than something that’s willful, defiant or disruptive. 
  • As much as you can intervene or address behavior early, the better understanding why or what the person is trying to communicate is going to help meet their needs. Take into consideration medical, mental health and behavioral considerations, and look at a team-based approach that puts your child at the center of the team. 
  • The same thing that motivated your child’s behavior today might not be the same thing that’s motivating to them next week. You have to adapt.

You can access other session recordings and presentations at MetroParent.com.

Follow Metro Parent on Instagram.

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.


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