Question: Are there strategies for helping adolescents with autism adjust to puberty?
Answer: Yes, there are many strategies that can help. Puberty tends to be a time of turmoil for our folks, and although they may have autism, their bodies are developing along the typical lines with their hormones and their growth spurts. Typical teenagers do not handle puberty very well many times. And people with autism and autism spectrum disorders often handle that time period less effectively because they have delays in their coping skills and their understanding of the social norms that are out there. So, sometimes we do see some problems come cropping up during the times of adolescence and the puberties.
Strategies at this time would be some good solid positive behavior plans in place for them. Some social skills instruction so that they can learn how to handle some of those frustrations and anxiety that may crop up at this time. A peer network so that they can have understanding peers around them. This is also a time of bullying and teasing, so prevention for that so that that does not occur. Sometimes, medications are also accessed at this time of puberty because of the rage episodes that we sometimes see. Medications are not, however, a be-all and end-all, and they should not be thought of as the cure for stopping all of the inappropriate behaviors that may crop up during these adolescent years. Medication should be used in close combination with some good solid behavior program, so that it's a very cohesive plan, in hopes that the medications can be weaned off as that student learns better skills to cope with all of the things that they are now being hit with during these adolescent years.