The Perks to Having an Autistic Teen

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My oldest daughter has autism. She was born just as autism statistics began to rise and before anyone really knew what to do with a child like mine. Now she is a teenager and not only have I come to terms with a future that might look a little different than I had planned, life has also calmed down just enough for me to see the many perks to having a teenager with autism.

1.  Seventeen years and counting and I have not had to endure a single boy band concert. My daughter has no interest in pop culture and if she did, she would need ear plugs and industrial headphones just to step inside, so of course, I would wear the same to make sure she doesn’t stand out in the crowd.

2.  Fashion is a non-issue.  As long as it is comfortable she does not care.  I have ventured into those stores where you come out smelling like you swam to the cash register in a pool of their cologne and narrowly made it out without drowning.  My daughter could care less what she wears, what you wear, what I wear.  It’s nice, for her, for me, for my sense of smell.

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3.  While there may not be an over-abundance of eye contact going on over here it is not because she is staring down at a phone, texting someone who she would much rather be talking to than me, at a speed more rapid than I was ever able to attain in my high school typing class.

4.  You never have to wonder what she is thinking.  It just comes right out.  She will tell you if you are late, early, too loud, in her way, going the wrong way, you name it. There is no beating around the bush and actually you can’t say “beating around the bush” because if you do she will tell you that does not make sense.

5.  Curfews are a non-issue.  I remember the days of negotiating with my own mom and also the nights of trying to tiptoe in the house after the day of negotiating proved unsuccessful.  I can happily brag that I know where my teenager is every Friday and Saturday night.  If she is pulling an all-nighter it is because someone forgot the melatonin.

6.  We are saving on car insurance. I have not spent a single night lying awake waiting for the garage door to open or close or for her to drive through it.

7.  I am still her friend.  I have noticed that there are other people whom she would much rather see than me but for the most part, time with Mom is still on her list of things she can tolerate and I can pretend that I am cool until the rest of my kids become teenagers and tell me otherwise.

8.  She is affectionate.  We never hit the do-not-even-breathe-on-me phase.  She will hold my hand, dole out the hugs and would no doubt sit on my lap if we weren’t the same size.

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9.  No drama.  Okay, we have our fair share of drama but it is more of the you-screwed-up-my-schedule or the-bus-is-late variety not that mean teen girl drama that occurs in every other household.  There is no catty, she said this or her boyfriend did this going on over here which leads into my final and favorite thing about my teenager with autism…

10.  She is kind and innocent.  There is seriously not a mean, malicious bone in her body.  She will treat you the same whether you are rich, poor, famous, homeless, 2 years-old, 90 years-old, can’t speak, can’t shut up, she does not care.  She will never speak behind your back, whisper about your bad hair day or spin the truth.

About the writer

@jessbwatson

Jessica Watson is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. You can find her wearing her heart on her sleeve at her personal blog Four Plus an Angel, oversharing on Twitter @jessbwatson and onFacebook.

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Olivia 6 months ago

Wow. I’m an autistic teenage female and I find these points to describe me very accurately too. I wish you to maintain the positive sides of your relationship with your daughter.

Terry 1 year ago

Christina, I have the same goal for my son. He is an intelligent boy. He gets As in Math without even studying. When he applies himself, he can get A and high Bs in other classes. He is also a very handsome young man and people usually take to him right away. I have taught him to open doors for ladies, especially senior citizens, so I often get compliments about how polite he is. He’s very polite with everyone, other than me.

My hopes are that he go to college and get a degree in whatever interests him and does at least average work. That he get a job that will pay enough for him to live in a studio apartment and be able to pay for the basics of life – food, shelter, clothing, health care, a car for safe transportation. I am hoping that he finds a nice girl to marry and that she will understand what his needs are and how to interact with him. That she will be patient with him and kind. He has a great sense of humor. Most importantly, I want him to be happy and safe. That’s it. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.

I’m not asking for him to be rich, be a successful high-tech entrepreneur, famous, have a high-paying job, become the CEO of a company, win the lottery, win a Nobel Prize, become real estate magnate, a star athlete, or any of those silly things. I just want him to be able to make enough income to support himself, be able to take care of himself, be happy, be safe, and be loved. In fact, that’s what we should be praying to God for ALL of our children and ourselves.

Terry 1 year ago

My son is the opposite in many respects, and in some he is similar. The differences could be attributable to the gender difference.

He’s not into concerts, although he enjoys oldies but goodies as well as songs in Spanish and Italian and often listens to music on his ipod.

He wants expensive tennis shoes because his peers have them. However, I cannot spend $120 on a pair of what amounts to fancy sneakers and I will most certainly not hand over my hard-earned quarters to the people who own corporations and make their money fleecing the working class.

Eye contact is OK, not great, but he is constantly on the ipod “talking” with friends and scheduling outings to play basketball. He’s driving me crazy constantly wanting me to drive him to a park to play with a friend, where some other kids show up for pickup basketball. I found out that means that kids who don’t know each other go to the basketball court and ask to play with the kids that are already playing.

Saying inappropriate things is definitely a problem; sometimes it sounds downright mean and hurts my feelings, especially when I know that he is doing it with intended sarcasm because he is PO’d at me. Whatever anyone says or does to him, he takes out on me; to everyone else he can be quite polite and pleasant.

I have no curfew issue now, but I’m anticipating it and dreading it. He is a VERY head-strong and self-directed kid and it’s usually hellish interacting with him. He is the male version of “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” and often says very hurtful and mean things to me when he is upset with something, even though whatever he is upset at has nothing to do with me. So, I foresee that curfew is going to be another major source of arguing, especially when he starts driving. He wants a car when he turns 17, so I’m dreading that experience.

He was the sweetest and most loving child until he hit 7th. grade. At that point, all hades broke loose and I became a pariah in public. If I went to school to take something he needed and had left at home, or went to a meeting with school staff, he’d turn around and walk the other way, ask me why I was there with an upset look on his face, motion for me to leave, or actually tell me to leave that I was embarrassing him because other kids didn’t have their moms there except to drop them off and pick them up. Now, only when we are at home, and only occasionally is he affectionate with me, although I make a point of saying “I love you” several times a day, even during and after major arguments.

Due to his oppositional and feisty personality, we have constant “drama.” I am completely worn out emotionally, but I have to keep going, as I am the only person that he has to advocate for him, fight for him, advise him, and guide him in life.

He is definitely not kind and innocent. He used to be. He used to tell other kids when their shoe laces were untied so that they wouldn’t fall and hurt themselves. He used to pick up things that other kids dropped and hand it to them. He used to ask me how I was feeling and if I ever looked worried or sad without realizing it, he’d ask if I was sad and he’d run over and give me a hug. All that changed when middle school hit. I have no idea what happened. In thinking long and hard about it, I believe it was a combination of teen hormones raging, his realizing more and more that he is “different” and resenting that difference, the content of his school classes became harder and it caused enormous stress for him, especially when he had to write papers and projects, having a mean stepmother who took his bedroom for her own 25 year-old daughter and then her 32 year-old son, his sister moved to another state, and other changes in his life, and the increasing serious arguments between us when he becomes verbally disrespectful and abusive.

He also doesn’t focus on his schoolwork any longer the way he was until 6th. grade. Back then he had to be #1 in grades, #1 in turning in his schoolwork, etc. He used to win awards and medals. Now he is focused on texting with kids from his K-8 school and high school.

Frankly, I would much prefer to have him be an easy-going child that is easy to get along with instead of constantly contrarian, who would have several good friends, concentrate more on school and start thinking about a part-time job as soon as he is legally able to work so that he can learn responsibility and what is needed to keep a job, which will be crucial to independent living as an adult.

I love my son very much. Sometimes, though, I feel as if I’m living with an emotionally abusive stranger, which makes me very sad.

I’m glad I came across your blog. This article that I’m commenting on has been very helpful.

Christina 1 year ago

My son at 3 was diagnosed with moderate autism and global developmental delay. At 16 he attends normal school, gets great Maths results (kumon) pass other subjects, wants to be an accountant, helps around the house, lies when convenient and enjoys listening to smutty radio on way to school. He can usually be found at home in his room on his computer. My expectations of him has always been the same expectations that I have of my other children, be polite, well groomed and try your hardest. I hope he eventually finds a girlfriend

sherry 2 years ago

This is a depressing post. It did not make me feel better but sad for all my daughter may miss out on.

Deanne Brunold 2 years ago

That is truly one of the most beautiful descriptions of a mothers love for her child I have ever read…Aunt D

Deanne Brunold 2 years ago

That is truly one of the most beautiful descriptions of a mothers love for her child I have ever read…Aunt D

Kelly Barreca 2 years ago

after reading this I felt like I wasnt alone :) and my girl wasnt either

Kelly Barreca 2 years ago

thanks ang for liking this …i

Kelly Barreca 2 years ago

Wow you just said everything I feel about my daughter and it is bittersweet without a doubt…Thank you so much for sharing that!

jess 2 years ago

Thankyou thankyou thankyou.atleast this tells me there’s a light at the end of the my very dark tunnel…for a moment there i thought you talk in about my 12years old boy.i love and cherish every minute i have with him…his innocense is overwhelming…
Thanks for reassuring me the future is bright…every step at a time.

Amy 3 years ago

Thank you for this! It is all true! I have a son who is 14 (and who repeatedly asks me when is he going to get a drivers license – ummmmmm never!), but outside he occasional violent, fear for my life meltdown, he is kind, funny, helpful and a joy to be around!

JD Bailey @ Honest Mom 3 years ago

Somehow I missed you were on Scary Mommy! What a beautiful post. I love that my almost 7yo daughter still holds my hand, and I’ll be so sad on the day she doesn’t want to anymore…

Courtney 3 years ago

I have definitely learned to see the positive side of autism. I think there is enough awareness about the struggles, so it always makes me smile when someone can express the perks. Love this post, Jess

Karin 3 years ago

I can so relate to the nice things about having a “non-typical” teenager! I have a 15 year old and an 11 yr old (both boys) who have Aspergers. My 15 yr old is so kind and sweet (except when his younger brothers are bugging him and he wants to play his video games). He’s got a small group of nice friends who get together to play video games, I don’t have to worry about them drinking, looking at porn, drugs, sneaking in girls, etc. because they are simply not interested in anything other than their video games, and Nerf guns! They would rather have Doritos and Mountain Dew. Last weekend, I think he was feeling a little blue, and he laid down on the couch and put his head in my lap. He just needed some “mom connection”. He’s 6’1″, 240 lbs and wanted a snuggle. He’s like a big bear cub. My 11 yr old son is going to be different – he’s also high functioning, but has the iPod plugged in constantly, loves cologne and beauty products for hair and skin, likes to dress nicely, and the girls sit with him at lunch, because he’s really cute. He also is extremely loving, gives hugs and kisses freely, and desperately wants to fit in and have friends to hang with. Although their younger years were really hard, and required tons of therapy, TSS, and creative parenting, I am really pleased with how my boys are maturing. I think so many “normal” teenagers are growing up way too fast.

Kristy 3 years ago

Great post and so true! I have a 20 year old aspie son. And he still tries to sit in my lap!

Jamilynn 3 years ago

My middle child was recently diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, and found your post to be wonderfully positive. I agree with what you have written, especially when curfew is and what he is thinking. He doesn’t care about clothes, fashion, and what’s cool (yet) either. To see these as positive definitely helps put everything into perspective and see what wonderful children they truly are. To see the world through their eyes is remarkable!

Joy 3 years ago

I love this and totally get it!

Child Psychologist Adelaide 3 years ago

A very sweet and touching post. My friend’s sister have autism and she is the 2nd sweetest little girl I know (of course she’s only second to my daughter). Most of the people are blind or too narrow minded that when they see a person who is different, they just started assuming that they’re too weird there’s nothing good about them. While the fact is, it’s the opposite. Special people will never disappoint us and can make us enjoy our life. I can’t get the right words but I think (and I hope) most of you understand what I’m trying to say. This blog post is great. God bless to you and your daughter mommy Jessica.

Annie 3 years ago

“someone forgot the melatonin” – Bwahaha! SO true! Love this list!

michelle 3 years ago

Wow.. I am a proud Auntie of twin boys age 4, one is Autistic, and each of them is so loving and thoughtful and caring. I often think of their future together and the great things I believe they can accomplish together! The challenges they face during their lives will most surely create a force to be reckoned with. It is nice to have some reinforcement in this way of thinking from someone who has been experiencing it first hand.

michelle 3 years ago

LOL glad to see someone telling it like it is!

Sunday Stilwell 3 years ago

Kickass post, Jess.

Nicole D. 3 years ago

I LOVE this. I have an 8 year old son who is also on the Autism Spectrum and can relate to almost everything on this list, especially #10. My son always has, and always will look at the world with very different, very kind eyes. He is my little miracle, though it can be very challenging, you are right, I have far more to learn from him than he does of me.

Jim W 3 years ago

sweet post, Jess.

Alysia 3 years ago

I love this. You’ve given me something to look forward to with my boys. So glad to know you.

Jessica 3 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing Gretchen. It has to be hard to want so much to fit in. My daughter does not have as much social awareness as it sounds like you have so she is more comfortable wearing her comfy clothes and I don’t think that she will ever drive. I love hearing your perspective, thanks for sharing.

Jessica 3 years ago

My daughter has PDD as well and, like you, I remember not quite seeing the light at the tunnel when she was young and newly diagnosed. I promise it will get easier. The days will not always be easy but you will get more of a handle on all of it and not feel so much like you are muddling through.

Jessica 3 years ago

Thanks so much Yvonne.

Gretchen Leary 3 years ago

This was interesting to read. As a female adult Aspie, some of the perks for parents seem to some of the downfalls to the teen. Not to be a downer though. Lol. It just that as a teen I wanted to be a part of groups, I wanted to be dating…just didn’t know how. The driving was not an issue as I still cannot stand driving so I didn’t drive until after age 18. I only cared about fashion because it seemed to be “how to fit in” but I sure love comfy clothes. It sounds like you have a wonderful daughter and its always good to think about the positives, just wanted to share my two cents :)

Kimberly 3 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you! My 2 year old daughter was just diagnosed…I need to read more of these stories for sure!

Melinda 3 years ago

Thank you so much for this. I’ve been muddling through since my 4 yr old’s diagnosis (PDD-NOS) in September. It’s good to hear from parents with older children.

Kathy at kissing the frog 3 years ago

She sounds like a sweetheart, Jessica. It would be nice if more teenagers would maintain a little of this innocence.

Rebeccah 3 years ago

OH, my heart. Love love love this. Beautiful, gentle humor and such an amazing perspective. Your daughter sounds like an awesome person and so do you. :-)

Neo Aspieside 3 years ago

Thank you for sharing. My son is 15 and an Aspie. He does occasionally tell me to go away and want his alone time. But I always know where he is. As you said, there are no arguments about curfew or worrying about him out running the streets with his friends. He is always here with us and when he isn’t focused on a video game he hangs out with us. He is sweet and kind. He would not hold my hand but asks for back rubs all the time. Not sure other 15 year old boys are that close to their moms. It is wonderful.

yvonne@attractedtoshinythings.com 3 years ago

I found you through Jillsmo, and perhaps I am displaying poor social boundaries, but I FUCKING LOVE YOU!!!! Everything you wrote? Yeah, that’s my 9 year old son. He’s loving, cuddly (except when he wants to be left the FUCK alone), a terrible liar, socially clueless, totally into licking anyone/anything, he doesn’t know why the FUCK I insist on his wearing underpants to a play date, and his favorite pasttimes are lining shit up, spinning shit around, and throwing magnets at shit. <3

Galit Breen 3 years ago

Love seeing you two together today!

{And #s 7 & 10? Total and complete swooners!}

anymommy 3 years ago

I love your perspective, Jessica. And the fashion thing made me laugh!!

Jenny Saul-Avila 3 years ago

I love this! And I almost wish she could be my daughter – or at least precious niece – she sounds lovely. And you sound like a wonderful mother.

Nicole(Whole Strides) 3 years ago

This sounds like a great perspective. Your daughter is lucky to have you for a mother.

jillsmo 3 years ago

This is beautiful, Jess. Thank you for giving me a hint of what might be my future, too <3

Niksmom 3 years ago

What a lovely, and timely, post. I’ve been thinking about this more lately as we face a different future with our son than the one we envisioned a while back. I really appreciate your perspective and your daughter’s spirit.

This: “What you see is what you get and when all is right in our autism world, I know I have a lot more to learn from her than she does from me.” I think about this constantly, too. Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded.

Anna @ My Life and Kids 3 years ago

Absolutely beautiful! So well done, Jessica!

Kristin 3 years ago

Such a great post- I love ALL of the perks, but especially #10! Thanks for the smile today!

Diane 3 years ago

GREAT post Jessica (as always)! There are definite pluses during the teenage years! 😀

Anna 3 years ago

I love this. I can hardly even imagine a teen scene that isn’t centered around texting, so refreshing and inspiring!

Lexi Sweatpants 3 years ago

This is AWESOME! There are times that I think about all that I will “miss out on” as far as teenage things go with my son Casey or my daughter Abby. I sometimes forget all of the good things that come from Casey’s autism and Abby’s Down syndrome. I might not have a daughter who fights with me the way I fought with my mom! That would be dreamy.

Beautiful post, Jess, as always.

Leigh Ann 3 years ago

I absolutely love your honesty and wit in this, Jessica. You’er an amazing mom to a very special and lucky girl (+3).

Tammy Davis 3 years ago

This is so awesome & very true, you could be talking about my son too. I worried what the teens years would be like but other than the fact he’s 6ft tall and climbing he’s still my sweet little guy who holds my hand to cross the street. When he does act up like a snotty teen I cheer inside a little because he’s “suppose” to do that like his peers, but when he’s asking me tuck him in and give him his stuffed animals still, most of me cheers I still have my baby longer than most moms. Finding the silver lining is key and cherishing ALL the milestones is important, even the ugly ones.

Jessica 3 years ago

Thank so much Kim.

Jessica 3 years ago

Oh I am so glad to hear that this helped a little bit Tracey. The early days after a diagnosis can be very tough. Please feel free to contact me if there is anything I can do to get you through.

Kim 3 years ago

This was wonderful – passing on to several friends who I know would appreciate it.

Tracey 3 years ago

I have an autistic son, and have rarely heard from a parent of an autistic teen. This gives me a great deal of hope; since his diagnoses two months ago, I’ve been a mess. Thank you so much for this.

Jessica 3 years ago

Thank you so much Erin.

erin margolin 3 years ago

A beautiful post from my beautiful, wise, amazing and inspiring friend. Love.