Preparing your teen with Autism Spectrum Disorder for the adult world


As parents, all we want to do for our children is to raise them in a way that they can grow into confident and competent adults. This can be challenging enough in itself, but when you have a child who experiences difficulties with speech, social integration and some problematic behaviours this can become even more overwhelming. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is unfortunately not something that people can grow out of and is a lifelong disorder. However, with support and good preparation, children with this disorder can grow into confident and successful adults. 

As a parent there are a few things you can do to set them up for the adult world and make this transition easier for them. 

1) First, know what is involved


Early in your child’s life try and consider what things they might need to be able to do if you were not there. This can range from basic tasks such as cooking, cleaning and being able to buy groceries (involving simple maths) to more complicated tasks. 

2) Know where your child is at

Get a good understanding of your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses and what they want out of life. This will help you to focus on strengthening the areas that are going to be most important to them as adults, opposed to focusing on things that they probably don’t really need or are not concerned with. For example, when it comes to leaving school, knowing how to cook and clean for themselves is likely going to be more important than knowing Pythagoras theorem. 

3) Set tasks


Based on the skills you feel will be important for them to have in adulthood, set up a checklist of tasks to help establish these skills. These should be realistic and based around your child’s unique abilities. 

A nice example to spark some ideas can be found here:

Be aware that not all of these tasks will be appropriate for your child depending on their strengths and weaknesses, but it provides a nice place to start when considering what they might need to be able to do. Approaching adulthood with a good understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses and setting realistic goals for them will help to improve their confidence, self-efficacy and reduce setbacks overall.

4) Encourage decision-making


Try and gradually involve your child more and more in the decisions that involve them (a good time to start this is around grade 9 and 10 at school). This might look like helping them choose their elective subjects at school, meeting with the school counsellor together and them having input around their extracurricular activities.

5) Consider employment opportunities

Around Grade 10 is a good time to begin considering options for your child after school. Again you will need to consider their strengths and weaknesses as well as their interests. You may be able to approach some local businesses and discuss a volunteering or trainee position. This not only helps them to get used to the working world, but also helps them to try out a variety of career options and see what inspires them. 

6) Fill in the gaps

There may be some areas where your child might struggle with some of  the tasks required for independent living. This is where government and community support comes in. Before your child finishes school, gain a good understanding of what support will be available to them as an adult and try and utilise this to fill in any gaps between the tasks required and their abilities. This can be a joint task with your child as involving them in this process will give them an introduction to many of the services they will likely be dealing with as an adult. 

7) Always have a plan B

One of the most important lessons you can teach your children is that sometimes, despite all the planning things just may not work out. Be prepared to show this yourself through the planning process and try to have some back up options available where appropriate. By continuing to have a flexible and positive approach to your child becoming an adult, they will feel more competent themselves and feel confident in being able to tackle the adult world.  

8) Finally, be prepared to take a step back

Remember that the key outcome from this stage in life is that your child becomes as independent as possible. This means that although you’ve probably given them lots of guidance and support through their life, you need to begin to take a step back and allow them to learn and do things themselves to develop this independence. As with all the other steps above, this again needs to be done while paying mind to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. 

If you would like a professional assessment for your child and further guidance on what support they might need in the next stage of their life, counselling may be helpful. Contact your GP for further information on how to access a psychological professional. For further information on moving into the adult world when you experience ASD, please see the following links.  



Autism Spectrum Disorder: Getting rid of the stigma


Stigma is a horrible and harmful thing. If you are seen as different, people can be rude, unwelcoming or just downright cruel. If you have a child who experiences Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) I’m sure you would have experienced some level of stigma in your lives. You have likely been through a time where you and your child have been judged, ridiculed, criticised and even ostracised. This type of behaviour can be extremely hurtful and over time it can cause depression, shame and impact self-esteem and confidence. 

Some parents may even hesitate to take their children to be assessed for ASD because they are worried about “labelling” their child and introducing them and their family to the stigma attached to such a diagnosis. The problem with this though is that it won’t help your child either. If they truly do have ASD, then they will continue to experience the symptoms and difficulties that come along with this diagnosis, but due to a lack of proper assessment and diagnosis they are unlikely to get any support for these difficulties which can hinder their overall development. 


So what can we do?

We work to reduce the stigma around ASD (and other developmental and mental health concerns while we’re at it!)

There are 4 ways we can do this, first have a really strong understanding of what ASD is and educate others about this, know and show others that there is more to a person than this label, show others some of the ways ASD can be positive and finally advocate for ASD. 

1) Know what ASD is:

Much of the stigma that exists around ASD has been created from fear and misconceptions. Unfortunately, as humans what we do not understand, we fear. Although ASD is becoming more widely known, it is still rarely completely understood. This is certainly understandable given that even the professionals are still making discoveries in ASD research. However, there is enough research to put to bed some of the concerns of other parents such as the fear that their child will “catch” ASD from your child or that they will learn their “bad behaviours”. With a better understanding of exactly what ASD is and what causes it, we can dispel many of these myths. Rather than approaching such stigma with anger, try and see each of these times as an opportunity to educate someone on ASD. For a more detailed understanding on what ASD is, head over to our other page [What is Autism Spectrum Disorder]. 

2) Know your child is more than the ASD:

Remember the “S” in ASD? This stands for spectrum and means that not everyone with ASD will experience the same symptoms or the same level of difficulties. Unfortunately often people will mentally put every child with a diagnosis of ASD into the same category in their mind. Then all they see when they see your child is their preconceived ideas of a group of symptoms and disorders that may not even apply to them!

Although they may identify with the ASD diagnosis, it does not entirely make them. Try and identify what makes your child unique outside of their diagnosis and highlight this to others. 

3) Know the positives

We all know the negative aspects of ASD by now, but have you considered that some of the symptoms of ASD can actually have positive affects? 



For example, 

  • When something falls within the area of special interest for the person experiencing ASD they can show strong concentration and passion towards this. This can make them hard workers when placed in the right career. 
  • People experiencing ASD can have a very keen eye for detail and can be somewhat perfectionistic. This means that the work they produce can be of a very high standard. 
  • People experiencing ASD can also be very creative thinkers and the world needs more people who ‘think out of the box’ to progress. 

These are just a few examples of some of the many positives that ASD can bring about for people. If those who are judging or pulling away from your child knew about these positives, they may have a different attitude towards ASD. 

4) Finally, advocate, advocate and advocate some more

Nothing is going to change if we don’t keep working on it. Unfortunately fear and misconceptions spread much faster than anything else so we’ve got our work cut out for us. However, by just changing one person’s view, you may start a ripple of change as they see someone else being judgmental and then pass on the knowledge you gave them. More and more support is becoming available because of the wonderful work people have done to advocate for ASD but further support and better overall attitudes towards ASD is required so the more you advocate, the closer we get to a more accepting and supportive culture for ASD. 

For further information on ASD and reducing stigma, please see the links below. 


Helping a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder through school


Given the many challenges that are experienced by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD), if you have a child with this diagnosis, you might be wondering how to tackle school. 

So how can you best prepare them for and support them through school?

Speak to your therapist:


This should be your first point of call. Particularly for those who do not currently have a diagnosis for their child and are just wondering if they might be experiencing ASD, it is extremely important that you have them assessed and a correct diagnosis can be given. Once your therapist knows exactly what your child is experiencing, they can give guidance to the school on how best to support them. 

Telling your child and their teacher’s about the diagnosis:

It is important that your child has an understanding of what is going on for them. It may be better to tell them right away, or you may find it more suitable to wait until they get a little older and have a conversation then. Either way, this can be an important process in helping them to be prepared for some of the unique challenges ASD can pose to their school experience. 

This site: has some helpful information on talking to your children about their diagnosis. 

It is also important that the school and your child’s teachers are aware of your child’s diagnosis. Although you may be worried about “labelling” them, it can be far more problematic if the school are not aware. This is because without an understanding of the diagnosis, the teacher’s may feel that your child is just poorly mannered or misbehaving and might dismiss them rather than providing them the guidance they need. They are also not able to provide the valuable specialised support for children with ASD that can help your child succeed at school without being aware of their diagnosis. 

Preparing your child for school:



  1. Help your child get used to the school and the things they are likely to do there. This can be done through pointing the school out when you drive past, walking past the school, visiting the school, buying their school supplies and getting them used to using them or even getting into a school-like regime at home. 
  2. Make sure you are organised. This means having everything ready for school, knowing about some of the teachers and what class your child will be in. Try and connect with the teachers before the school year starts if you can or at least meet with the principle. It can be helpful if there is a familiar face there for your child. 
  3. Have your therapist connect with the school and give guidance on the level of support required. You can also provide some tips for the teacher yourself such as telling them some of your child’s interests, what upsets them and what seems to calm them. Some helpful hints can be seen at:
  4. Once they start school, give them a chance to settle when they get home each day. Also try not to pry, if they offer information about their school day ask questions and show interest but don’t interrogate them if they don’t seem to want to talk. 

What about high school?

Similar to primary school, for high school, you want to introduce your child to the school slowly over time. You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Find out exactly how high school will be different from primary school. This will be different for every school and could require some research on your part. 
  2. Talk your child through the differences to let them know what to expect. Reassure them that you will help them prepare for these changes. 
  3. Visit the school and try to look into some extracurricular activities; finding something that interests your child could help them transition easier. 
  4. Take photos of the school and help them do up a map.
  5. Try and work out if they will have any friends transitioning to the same school and set up a buddy they can go to if needed. 
  6. Talk to the school about what support services they can provide and give examples of what was provided at your child’s primary school if appropriate. 
  7. Above all, keep in mind that this will be a challenging time for your child so they may show some challenging behaviours. Try and have patience with this and accept that it will take them some time to settle in and this behaviour is simply them trying to adjust. 

For further information on ASD and adjusting to school, please see the links below. 


What is Autism Spectrum Disorder


Your child may have just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD) or you may have heard the teacher mention it. Your child might have a friend with ASD or you may just have some concerns about how your child is developing socially. A good place to begin in any of these situations is to first have a good understanding of what ASD is. 

So what is ASD?


Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental condition that is experienced over the length of the person’s life. This means that it is a condition where for some reason, the brain of the person has not developed in a particular way. ASD is a spectrum disorder which means that there is a spectrum (or scale) that involves a variety of symptoms and each person can present differently depending on where on the spectrum they sit and what particular symptoms make up their version of ASD. Typically though, ASD involves difficulties with communication, sensory behaviours and repetitive and restricted interests and behaviours. 

What are the symptoms of ASD?


As mentioned above, each person with ASD can present differently depending on what particular symptoms they are experiencing and where on the spectrum they sit. The symptoms though can be divided into three areas:

  1. Communication – people experiencing ASD will often communicate in a different way than those not experiencing ASD and this can be seen through:
  • Delays in their development of verbal communication. This can range from only being able to communicate through sound opposed to structured sentences, to just developing language skills at a later age than others. Often speech therapy can assist with this.
  • One-sided conversations – they may struggle to speak about things outside of their own interests and it may be difficult to redirect them to other topics. 
  • Unusual conversation styles – they learn a lot of their language and social cues through television and movies. This means they may often repeat phrases or lines from shows or movies or may even speak in a accent when not appropriate (such as an American accent when they are not American).

2. Social development – people experiencing ASD often struggle to make and maintain relationships and this can be due to:

  • Difficulty understanding and demonstrating appropriate non-verbal communication. Examples include showing minimal eye contact through conversations or not being able to pick up on some of the cues given out when people are uncomfortable or don’t want to talk (such as turning away with arms crossed). 
  • Difficulties understanding emotions expressed by others and understanding their own emotions. 
  • A lack of interest in interacting or playing with others. 


3. Behaviour – people experiencing ASD can often experience either hypersensitivity (over-sensitive) or hyposensitivity (under-sensitive) to their environment. Due to this they may interact with the environment in unusual ways to try and manage their sensitive. Such as: 

  • Repetitive and unusual body movements (e.g. hand flapping). 
  • Repetitive use of objects (e.g. opening and closing doors repetitively).
  • Engaging in objects in a sensory manner (such as smelling things you would not normally smell, rubbing things on their face or skin etc). 
  • Becoming overwhelmed when provided with a lot of sensory information (such as at a concert, or shopping centre or amusement park). 
  • Difficulties with particular sounds or textures (such as the dryer or the feeling of towels on skin). 

What causes ASD?



It is difficult to pin point exactly what causes ASD, but they have found that there is some genetic links to ASD. It is important to know that ASD cannot be caused by anything you as the parent have done. It is also important to know that within extensive research, there have been no links found between vaccinations and the development of ASD. 

Diagnosing ASD:

It is important to remember that not everyone experiencing ASD will have the exact symptoms described above and the severity of these symptoms can vary also. ASD can be detected as early as 2 years old or as late and early adulthood depending on the symptoms and their severity. Due to this and the way that ASD works it is not diagnosed on a single factor. Often a specialist will gather information from you as the parent, they will observe your child personally and looks at a variety of areas of their development. 

If you have concerns about your child it is important that you see a specialist. You may be afraid of “labelling” your child, but without the right assistance children with ASD can become isolated, struggle educationally and socially and have difficulty learning to manage their emotions. With an appropriate diagnosis supports can be put in place at home and at school to assist your child to develop to the best of their ability. 

For further information on ASD and raising children experiencing ASD, please see the links below. 



My child has an old diagnosis of Asperger’s, what does this mean?


You may have heard that as of May 2013, a new version of the manual used by professionals for the diagnosis of mental and developmental disorders (DSM) was brought out. With this new manual, the way we look at a few developmental disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) changed. Instead of these disorders being recognised separately, they were combined under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This has caused some confusion for individuals who were diagnosed with one of these disorders and parents of children with these disorders. If this might be you, you’re probably wondering what this change means. Below we’ll discuss what this means for you and where to from here. 

Why did they change it?


As even the experts in mental health and development do not know everything there is to know about these disorders, the DSM is an ever changing document that is updated when research reveals new information. The reason that this particular change was made was because they found that specialists were inconsistent in how they diagnosed PDD and Asperger’s Syndrome and where there is inconsistency there is the chance that people are being incorrectly diagnosed or missing out on a diagnosis when they should have been given one. There was also inequality in the support provided to people with these diagnoses; some would receive support easily, while others were denied support. It was found that Asperger’s and ASD shared a lot of symptoms but differed in terms of the severity of these symptoms, so it seemed appropriate to combine them under the one name and put them on a spectrum. 

Does that mean now it doesn’t exist?

No, just because they have made this change does not mean that you or your child no longer have a diagnosis. It also does not mean that all your difficulties were imagined or in your head. It simply means that these difficulties come under another name. Instead of Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD, they are all considered ASD and this encapsulates difficulties with social integration, communication and repetitive or unusual behaviours (head over to our other page on ASD [What is Autism Spectrum Disorder] for more information on ASD).  

What does this mean for me or my child with a diagnosis of Asperger’s?



    1. Do we have to get rid of the name? No… Some people begin to define themselves by their diagnoses. So it’s understandable that being told you can no longer use this name can be difficult. So if you would prefer to hold on to this name you can. Your specialist can use both the name of Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD so that you can still gain the support offered for ASD while holding on to the diagnosis that you originally identified with. 
    2. Do we have to be re-diagnosed? No… For people with a well established, pre-existing diagnosis of PDD or Asperger’s Syndrome they can be given a diagnosis of ASD. It may be beneficial though to re-visit your specialist as depending on the severity rating of ASD, there may be a higher level of support required and offered. 
    3. What about the stigma? Some people may worry that people will see them or their child as less intelligent because of a diagnosis of ASD opposed to Asperger’s Syndrome. This is an incorrect belief though. Although ASD can involve developmental delays and this can impact academic ability, this is not a given. As ASD is a spectrum, children with the same diagnosis can differ greatly and may not experience all of the same symptoms. Like with any disorder, there is stigma attached and the best way to tackle this is by educating others about ASD (head on over to [addressing the stigma] for tips on how to do this). 
    4. So what does change? Other than the name, not much. You or your child should still be entitled to all of the support services you may be receiving already and for some people, having a diagnosis coming under ASD may actually open up more support services. 



For further information on Asperger’s syndrome and ASD please see the links below. 



Basics of Autism

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that mainly affects the person’s communication and social skills. It is characterized by rigid and repetitive behaviors and is neurological and behavioral, in nature.  It occurs in 1 of 45 children in the United States alone and also occurs four times more in boys than in girls.  

ASD begins early in childhood and can persist to adolescence and adulthood. There are some great outcomes that enable the person to live independently, but some may have severe disabilities requiring lifelong support.


What are the signs and symptoms?

The term “spectrum” in ASD means that different symptoms may appear between persons with the disorder. As for the severity of the symptoms, it varies greatly. Below are the more common symptoms of ASD.

The following signs may suggest your child is at risk for ASD:

  • Difficulty in eye contact
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Delayed language development
  • Repetitive behaviors ( example: flapping, pacing, rocking and spinning)
  • Lack of empathy or difficulty in relating to other people
  • Repeats phrases countless times
  • Difficulty in listening 
  • Difficulty in communicating and expressing themselves


The information shared above is not meant to diagnose your child, but if you notice  these red flags, it is best to seek assistance from a healthcare provider specializing in ASD for proper evaluation of your child’s condition.


How early can you diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Signs and symptoms usually appear between 2 to 3 years of age, but in some cases symptoms show as early as 18 months old. Remember that early evaluation and intervention can improve the outcome of your child.


What are the causes of Autism?

Exact cause of Autism is still unknown, but below are the potential reasons:

  • Genetics, experts believe that autism runs in the family or in the genes
  • Rubella or German Measles in pregnant women
  • Environmental factors such as pesticides and mercury


Treatment for Autism?

There is no known “cure” for Autism however; early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve the child’s development or potential.  The goal of the treatment is not to cure ASD but to maximize your child’s functional independence and quality of life. Management of a child with autism involves multiple approaches such as:

  • Behavioral training
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medicine for added behavioral conditions like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, if needed

Remember, early screening of your child can make an enormous improvement in his development.


What are the socio – economic impacts of ASD?

You need to understand that a person with autism will require support and guidance from their parents, family or caregiver due to their limited abilities. Some may even require lifelong support depending on the severity of their disabilities. 

Because of the disabilities attached to ASD, there is stigma and discrimination for some. Because of that, they may feel isolated from the society or community.  The responsibility of taking care of a person with ASD is also highly demanding, emotionally and financially.  The doctor’s consultation, the therapies and all programs needed for the treatment of this condition can be very expensive. Good thing, there are now non-profit organizations, family grants and government financial support that can assist you.

It is normal to have fears for your child’s future. Remember that you are not alone, and that there are social and health services that you can reach out to with your child’s condition that somehow extend some support and assistance. 


How do you cope when your child is diagnosed with Autism?


It is true that all parents want nothing but the best for their child. They will do everything to make their child live a happy and healthy life and no parent will ever be prepared for the news that their child is diagnosed with Autism.  It is a very frightening situation for anyone. You may feel scared and unsure of what do best for your child. Sometimes, you ask yourself how you can help as a parent.

 A lot of unsolicited advice will be given and it will just confuse you.  People around you may say that ASD is “incurable” and is a lifelong burden, but know that there are now treatments that can significantly make improvements in your child, in terms of the developmental and behavioral aspect.  With proper care, management, love and support, your child can still learn, develop and grow – high functioning, and all.


Things you can do to help your child

Aside from the treatment plan, therapies and programs suggested by specialists, as a parent, what else can you contribute with your child’s well-being?

First, allow yourself to cry. 

Yes, be sad and emotional whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself time to grieve and absorb everything. Afterwards, remember to pick yourself up.  Know that you have a child that needs you and your support. If you feel that everything feels too much, open up with your partner or family, they too are there to help you in this long journey.   

Educate yourself

Learn everything you can about Autism. The more equipped you are about the disorder, the more that you can help your child improve in his condition. Ask everything that bothers you with your child’s condition to the right people, your health care provider, physicians and therapists.  Research about the treatment choices available. Remind yourself that some may work or some may not and you, as the parent, knows what is best for your child.

Find a good team of specialists

The treatment and management of Autism can’t be done by a single health care provider. You may need to get in touch with several doctors and therapists. 


Your presence is important

Prepare yourself for this life long journey.  You as the parent will be the strongest anchor that your child can hang on to. Be strong for your child. Participate and learn from the therapies that you will bring your child to. 


Ask for help

Allow yourself to take a break once in awhile. Go outside and take a walk. Let your mind and body breathe. As they say this is a lifelong journey that may exhaust and drain all that you are.. Always remind yourself that you do not have to do this alone.  You can talk to and open up to your family. Ask help whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself that.