The topics that are often brought up by the teens are focused on friendship, dating, and sexuality. These are not topics that teens feel comfortable talking with their parents openly about and it is easier to discuss these with an outsider who they trust and who can explain and answer their questions in a way they understand. Speaking to a teenager with high functioning autism about the rules of dating is different and much more involved than it will be when speaking to a typical teenager. The teens that I work with are faced with challenges such as knowing how many times it is okay to ask a girl/boy out on a date and they decline before you stop asking or etiquette skills such as when you are out to dinner it is important to take breaks while eating in order to keep a conversation going.
Other topics often discussed by teens in my groups are homework/test/projects/group projects, organization, study habits, college, family dynamics, seeking jobs, conflict resolution, teenage norms, etc. I have worked with teens for over six years now on all the daily highs and lows that they go through and help them recognize the social pragmatics (ex. Who is talking? Where were the other kids in the room? What was the teacher doing? What was happening before? How did you walk into the room? etc) of each situation. Once they can reference and interepret their enviornment, then we can discuss different social strategies (4 W's, 5 point scale, social reminder/flash cards, etc) and individualize them. This helps the teenager cope with the anxieties that will come with the new social situations they will be confronted with daily in their adult life.
If you are struggling to connect to your teen with high functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome, or similar social cognitive challenges and a lot of what you just read above relates to your situation, please look into finding a social skills group/counselor in your area for your teen. This is the age when your teen is struggling to figure out who he/she is, needs help recognizing their strengths and challenges and help in utilizing ASD strategies tailored to them to navigate the social world to find/make healthy friendships.
If you are in the Western Oakland or Livingston County area of Michigan, contact Sabra Evans to schedule a social coaching session for your teenager! I love what I do and can't wait to help more teens build self-confidence and find their way towards a happy and SOCIAL adult life.
Written by: Sabra Evans