Change and the Autistic Teenager

When my son Joshua was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two, I read every book I could get my hands on… (the internet wasn’t quite that big of a thing yet for resources).

One of the things I read was that some Autistic teens get moody, even aggressive, as they start having hormonal changes. I kept this in the back of my mind for many years and knock on wood, at age 16 we still haven’t had any issues. But as Joshua starts to get mail every day from various colleges, I am starting to reflect more on how far he has come.

So what hasn’t changed?

1. Joshua still does not like change in any form. When Joshua was age three or four he could melt down at the slightest change in his daily routine or schedule. Now as a teenager, we have flexibility with things like a schedule, but we have a really hard time when something new is presented that alters the schedule. The latest was trying a new club at school. Joshua was really interested in the topic and wanted to change from a current group he was in, but the anxiety to walk into the room with the new group was quite overwhelming! If we hadn’t forced him (literally) to at least check it out, it would not have happened. As a random update, this was three weeks ago and so far we like the new club!!!

2. Another thing that hasn’t changed much is me. Yes, the Mom. I want to say I’m cool, laid back; that I treat my children as individuals and do not put them in a “box” so to speak. That failed recently when Joshua was old enough to get his driver’s license. He didn’t want to do any of it. He didn’t want to get his temps, take the classes, drive us around, etc. Nothing. But we pushed and pushed, (knowing as mentioned above) that change is tough. But finally, when taking his test for the third time, he told the instructor he was afraid of killing someone. (Insert mom face palm here). That was when I realized that my son is different from the many others who are craving to get their license at age 16. He doesn’t want it. He’s not interested at all. This isn’t even about change. It’s about a kid who will probably take public transportation his entire life because that is better for him. It’s consistent and he can be on his phone or laptop and chill out. Much more his style.

3. The final thing that hasn’t changed is that my son is happy. It was one of the qualities you would have noticed about him at a young age; he was always laughing. Even today, he knows that he is a little different from other kids and that his brain works a little differently. He honestly doesn’t seem to mind. He has a great sense of humor and is very caring. He still likes to snuggle up once in awhile with his mom and he shares things going on in his life. His laugh is loud and contagious and you hear it often!

So is there a moral here? I think the lesson is that change is okay. Not fitting into the mold of what life should be like is DEFINITELY okay. And in the end, being happy is the most important thing of all.

Pam is the Executive Director of the Orange Effect Foundation. She worked in the marketing field for the past 10 years, serving as Chief Operations Officer for Content Marketing Institute. During that time she found her passion to build and lead amazing teams because of the commitment of the staff at CMI. Pam also helped to create Content Marketing World, an event where over 3500 marketers come together annually to learn and network with the best and brightest. Pam's background is in social work, and she is raising a son with autism so the opportunity to start and direct this nonprofit is a dream come true. She has been a key leader in the CMI Golf for Autism the past 11 years and a champion for many other nonprofit organizations.
  1. Marcia Riefer Johnston Reply

    Beautiful, Pam. Just like you. And Joshua. And your family.

  2. Karen Cocita Reply

    Great story with an even greater ending- you are so right when you state that in the end, being happy is what really matters! Thanks for sharing. You and your family are true inspirations to me.

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