Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS) is a name used to describe a wide range of neurodevelopmental conditions that can be observed through certain behaviors, communication techniques, and styles of social interactions.
According to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), doctors diagnose ASD by identifying several key signs. But the signs of ASD vary widely from person to person.
The signs can also change as you age: ASD signs you experience as a kid may be completely different from what you experience as a teenager.
So what are the common signs of autism in teenagers?
The outward signs of ASD aren’t the same from person to person. But the signs of autism in teens aren’t all that different from those in children or adults.
Here’s a brief summary of the diagnostic criteria for autism according to the DSM-5:
- having difficulty with social interactions and communication, such as having conversations or misunderstanding gestures
- having intensely focused or restricted patterns of behavior, such as repetitive motor functions like hand-flapping, or strict adherence to a daily routine to the extent of feeling distressed if these patterns are disrupted
- outward signs of autism are identifiable early in development, even if they’re not easy to spot, as they may become more apparent when the child gets older
- autism signs result in noticeable challenges adjusting to functions expected in social or workplace norms
- autism signs aren’t more clearly part of a different intellectual disability or developmental disorder diagnosis (although they can be diagnosed alongside each other)
These signs are also diagnosed according to their “severity.”
Some people diagnosed with autism may show only “mild” forms of these signs. But others may experience “severe” forms that disrupt their ability to adjust to neurotypical social and communication norms.
This is why many people think it’s critical to get a diagnosis and get treated as early as possible.
A “severe” diagnosis may help someone easily get access to the resources they need to adjust to these norms as they get older.
When do these signs typically begin to appear?
Signs of ASD can change from childhood to adulthood. In many cases, autism can’t by definition be diagnosed unless its signs are present when your child is young so that a pattern of behavior can be established.
Of course, there’s no exact time when these signs of autism will become noticeable in your teen. But with many teens, you may start to see behavioral and emotional changes happen when they hit puberty, usually at 11 to 13 years old.
Signs of autism may also become more noticeable when they start attending middle and high school, where social relationships often become more central to a teen’s life.
What should you do if you think your teenager has autism?.
Help your teen understand who they are and learn to love and accept themselves, especially if they’re worried about not fitting in.
First, see a pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist who specializes in autism. They’ll be able to walk you through how autism is diagnosed with Trusted Source, including:
- monitoring your teen’s development against a checklist of common developmental milestones
- performing an in-depth behavioral evaluation
- figuring out what resources may allow your teen to overcome challenges in adapting to neurotypical norms and becoming self-sufficient
Autism isn’t a medical condition that needs treatment. But it’s a diagnosis that many people don’t understand. You may not fully understand autism yourself right now, even as the parent of an autistic teen.
It’s important that your teen feels loved, accepted, and supported with all the resources they need to accomplish the things they want.
There’s strong support for getting your child or teen an autism diagnosis. It can help them get the resources and services they need to experience more positive or personally fulfilling outcomes throughout their lives.