ASD Tip of the Month

Raising and educating adolescents with ASD and other disabilities offers many joys and gifts. They can be affectionate, inquisitive, fun, and loving. But, adolescents with ASD and other disabilities can also face additional challenges associated with puberty as compared to their typically developing peers. They may face challenges including fewer friends, fewer opportunities for friendships and lower participation in social and recreational activities. The Tips of the Month for 2021-2022 will help support the social and emotional well-being of adolescents with ASD and other disabilities.

The OCALI Lending Library has many resources to support adolescents on these various topics. Here are a few to explore:

  • Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty & Personal Curriculum for Young People by Wrobel, M.
  • What's Happening to Tom?: A Book About Puberty for Boys and Young Men with Autism and Related Conditions by Reynolds, Kate E.
  • What's Happening to Ellie?: A Book About Puberty for Girls and Young Women with Autism and Related Conditions by Reynolds, Kate E.
  • Autism, Asperger's, and Sexuality: Puberty and Beyond by Newport, J., & Newport, M.
  • Lucky Dogs, Lost Hats, and Dating Don'ts: Hi-Lo Stories about Real Life by Fish, Thomas R.
  • The Facts of Life....and More: Sexuality and Intimacy for People with Intellectual Disabilities by Walker-Hirsch, L., ed.

Additional materials available in the OCALI Lending Library.

Check out these additional OCALI resources to learn more about supporting adolescence.


Understanding and Communicating with Adolescents

Adolescents with ASD and other disabilities are often excellent communicators both verbally and non-verbally. But, these communications may present challenges for both families and professionals as compared to typical peers A wide range of challenges can include limited language to excessive talking, limited eye contact and poor reciprocal conversation, as well as limited conversation topics, which can prevent the individual from having successful social interactions with both adults and peers. The following tips provide ideas on how to interact with adolescents with ASD and other disabilities.

  • Focus on strengths, not challenges. It is easy to identify the challenges of an adolescent or young adult. However, focusing on their strengths creates a foundation to build skills and confidence.
  • Learn to listen. Although we can speak at a rate of 125 words per minute, we can listen at a rate of 400 words per minute. Before responding when your adolescent or young adult is talking, listen to all their words. Instead of making judgments, try asking questions. Questions will help to clarify their thoughts and give you the opportunity to respond accurately and appropriately.
  • Think before reacting. Adolescents and young adults often will say things for shock value. They may carefully watch your reactions and then respond to your reactions, often in an inappropriate manner. Keeping calm can defuse a potentially heightened reaction. To help think before reacting, provide wait time after asking a question to allow the individual to process the information, and then come up with a response.
  • Be positive and reinforce. Positive communication and reinforcement can be an effective way to interact with adolescents and young adults. Instead of asking questions like “What is wrong with you?” or “I can’t believe you did (or said) that”, find out what is driving the behavior. When redirecting the individual, use ‘what to do’ words (paired with visual supports) to be sure the individual understands what to do.

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