The transition from childhood to adulthood can be a stressful and traumatic time for anyone, but if somebody is autistic and finds even the smallest change too much to cope with, then the amount of changes going on within their own body, and in the way people treat them, can often lead to years of stress. In my earlier article I addressed the issue of Autistic Crash. The next two articles will provide some more tips to help in adjusting to adulthood. There are techniques and tips – some of them fairly simple – to take away some of the stress from this transition.
Young people need to accept that they will change and become adults – nobody stays a child or a teenager forever. Often for people with autism, once they accept that there is no way around something, it becomes easier. That doesn’t mean that the young person with autism has to do everything neuro-typical peers do.
Ask for help when it`s needed, and accept help if it`s offered. Young adults with autism shouldn’t let their pride stop them from asking for help with something they are struggling with.
Sometimes it might be helpful for the person with autism to write down what they like about being a teenager, and what they may like about becoming an adult. So they would write down what they had enjoyed about their teenage years, and what they will miss about them, but also what they are looking forward to about their years as an adult; so they might say that they enjoyed the freedom of being a teenager, but that they are looking forward to being old enough to be served alcohol, or vote for example.
As with any teenager, if a young person with autism wants people to treat them as more of an adult, then they will need to try to do more things for themselves, and become a bit more independent. Obviously the degree to which they will be able to do this will vary greatly – depending on their level of autism – and they may need help to achieve this. But if somebody wants to be treated as an adult they need to act as an adult, to the best of their ability.
It is important for young people with autism to remember that everybody who goes from being a child to an adult has a stressful time, especially autistic people. Firstly, knowing they are not the only one going through those things can make it easier, but secondly, from a more practical point of view, it means they can talk to other people who have been through the same things, and see how they coped. Because it is not a unique problem to them it means there is a lot of help and advice from other people out there, if they go and look for it.
There are so many different elements when transitioning from a teenager to an adult, and far more than can be demonstrated here. Therefore there are many techniques and tips that could not be included, which is one of the reasons seeking out other people who have had this experience is essential. It is the biggest transition a person with autism will have in their life, so they need to be prepared for it.
Your comments below are welcomed. Part 2 on advice to parents can be found here.