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Tips For Autism: 6 Things Parents Should Know about Teens with Autism

Autism In Teens

We asked an expert what “typical” teenagers should know about peers with autism. Iliana Hoffer Skoff has great advice – from talking to the teenager rather than just deferring to their parent to conversation starters. Some may even be surprising. Have you not yet learned about “person-first language”? Don’t worry – she’s here to help.

1. Use person-first language.

Refer to my child first before you refer to her disability. Say, “Jan is a 12-year-old girl with autism spectrum disorder,” rather than, “Jan is an autistic 12-year-old girl.”

2. Ask for advice on how to interact.

Don’t be afraid to ask how to talk to her. I know that it is not intuitive. Don’t feel bad asking and I won’t feel bad if you ask. I appreciate that you care enough to want to know how to interact with her.

3. Talk to her not me.

When you want to talk or give a direction to my teenager, talk to her, don’t talk to me or her aide or her teacher.

4. Give choices instead of open-ended questions.

When you ask her what she wants to eat, say, “Do you want pizza or pasta?” She has a hard time answering, “What do you want to eat?” Open-ended questions are hard; choices help her focus.

5. Please offer to help, but don’t feel bad if I say no.

I really appreciate your offer to help, but your offering to help may be a distraction at that particular point, so I may say, “No, thank you.”

6. Ask me the ways I am amazed by my child.

Ask me about my child’s latest accomplishments. Don’t assume I will only have sad, challenging things to share about my child.

Ilana Hoffer Skoff

Ilana Hoffer Skoff is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Milestones Autism Organization. Milestones provides coaching and resources for all ages, stages and abilities, www.milestones.org