Hormonal changes, new expectations, social situations, a need for independence, and emotional mood swings are all things that a teenager is experiencing. The list goes on and on. Their body is changing physically and emotionally. They are learning new skills everyday and not to mention starting middle school.
Their are higher school expectations placed them and they are starting a whole new avenue with social situations. They are starting to figure out who they are as a person and starting to rely less on parents. They are testing the boundaries to see what they can and cannot do. All of these changes can lead to some pretty emotional changes as well.
Sensory Processing Difficulties
Teenagers with sensory processing difficulties can also have new and unexpected changes. They may start to respond differently to sensory experiences, times when they would have been able to be in control, they may not be able to control as easily. They may need to be taught how to handle themselves in certain situations again. They need our love, guidance, and support. What can we do to help our teens with sensory processing difficulties calm down? Check out our FREE Calm Down Strategies Toolkit for Teens for helpful tips, tricks, and resources!
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Teenagers can still experience sensory meltdowns. What are sensory meltdowns?
A sensory meltdown is a neurological response due to their brains being wired differently and their bodies fight or flight system kicks in. When the fight response takes over we can have a sensory meltdown.
They become so overwhelmed by the situation that they may not be aware of their surroundings and may lose control. They may not even be aware of what they are doing during the meltdown.
What can we do to help them with sensory meltdowns?
SAFETY IS THE TOP PRIORITY: Do what you can to keep everyone safe in the situation. Try to have the teen move to a safe area, but if you are unable to move them, make sure the people around them are able to move away to stay safe. You may need to move objects that could potentially be thrown or turned into a weapon.
Do not try to talk to the person during the meltdown as they will be unable to respond as they may be unaware of what they are doing in the situation.
As the parent/teacher/therapist, know your boundaries lines as to what you need to do in certain situations. We would love to always be able to deescalate a sensory meltdown before it happens, but when it does happen we need to understand our roles. There is a line when a bad behavior turns into a meltdown and then when a meltdown turns into a potentially dangerous situation. If at any time you feel that you cannot keep the person, yourself, or people around you safe CALL FOR HELP.
Have an understanding: Have an understanding that the teen may not understand what is going on during a meltdown and most likely does not want to be acting this way. These situations are hard and mentally exhausting as well as physically exhausting. Be present in the situation to help keep everyone safe, but when it is over do what you need to do to mentally and physically recharge. You are most likely their biggest support system and advocate and they need you to be able to be there for them.
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Shoe tying can be a tricky skill for some kids to learn and this is a skill we have been working on in our family as well. We wanted to share a video with you demonstrating two ways that my brother has been able to independently tie his shoes.
Working as an occupational therapist I work on this skill multiple times a day with kids.
Here are some tips you can use when teaching shoe tying to your kids:
-Be Patient: This is a new skill and it can take time and energy to learn a new skill
-Model the skill for them with the shoe in front of you on the table. This will be easier then having the child try to tie the shoe on their own foot.
-Provide verbal cues for the child if they forget a step
-You complete the first few steps and then the child completes the last step of the shoe tying method so that they are successful in one aspect of the skill and they can feel like they accomplished something. Or have them complete the first step and then you finish the rest of the steps of shoe tying for them.
Check out other modified methods for children and teens to become independent with shoe tying!
Self-Esteem Self-esteem is an important skill to learn, especially for teenagers and older kids to help them manage and regulate their emotions as they become adults. Helping them see themselves in a positive light will have lasting impressions on them as they get...
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for further details. Books about Sensory Processing For Teens As a family, we know that it can be difficult to find books and resources about sensory processing for teens. there just isn't a lot...
*This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for further details. Fidget Toys for Teens Fidget toys and objects can be a great way to help teens with sensory processing difficulties calm down, organize, focus, and keep their attention. They...
Autism Acceptance April is more commonly known as Autism Awareness month, but I want to support Autism Acceptance month. I know that we always need to bring awareness to others about autism and how to support people with autism, but I want it to go a step father and...
How to Handle Changes Hormonal changes, new expectations, social situations, a need for independence, and emotional mood swings are all things that a teenager is experiencing. The list goes on and on. Their body is changing physically and emotionally. They are...
There can be many sensory challenges that kids and teens face throughout the day. Colleen from The OT Toolbox has created a great solution for me to share with you today! *This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but we may earn an income....
Thinking about your teen dating can be scary for some parents, but we want to help make this process a little easier for you. Navigating the social aspects of dating can be difficult for teens with autism. Just like many other social skills many individuals may need to be taught specific skills to help them with dating. Dating can be a complex skill to learn.
Always listen to your teen and watch for their desire to want to date. Always go off of what your teen is telling you and showing you. Don’t force your teen to do something if they are not interested or don’t want to do it. Everyone has their own preferences and show interest in dating at different times in their lives.
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How can you tell if your teen is ready for dating?
All teens develop at different rates and have different interests in dating. Follow your teens lead, if you see that they are showing interest or asking you questions about dating help them through this complex situation. Pay attention to their nonverbal behaviors as well to help you decide if they are interested in dating.
A teen’s social maturity may not be the same as their physical maturity. Some teens may feel the physical desire for dating and sexuality before the social competence for dating. If your teen is asking you questions about their physical appearance/changes and their desire for sexuality be open to talk with them about these topics. Talk to your teen in a way that makes sense to them. If they learn best through direct concrete answers or through pictures/videos, help provide these opportunities for them to learn about the changes in their bodies.
Be Proactive and have Open Dialogue with your Teen about Dating and Sexuality
Sex and dating are very complex social situations. If you think your teen may be sexually active or dealing with opportunities for sexual activity don’t delay these conversations. It is important that we can protect your teen as best as you can from getting into unsafe situations. It is crucial to talk about safe sex and helping them to understand how pregnancy can occur. If you feel uncomfortable about talking about these situations with your teen is there someone you can reach out to for help? You could reach out to your teen’s doctor especially if you have concerns about health related questions.
Provide role playing opportunities to practice dating situations
One way to practice some of the complex social situations involved with dating would be to role play common situations. You could also try social stories, social scripts, modeling appropriate behaviors, video modeling, or an acting class. Social situations that you could role play and talk about for dating could be:
how to compliment
how to show interest in someone
how to talk with a peer you like
how to read nonverbal behavior
when to smile
how to use good manners
how to be respectful of another person
how to show affection
appropriate physical touch
how to stay safe
safety in public areas
Have open conversations about how to stay safe with dating
We want to do whatever we can to help our teen stay safe and not get taken advantage of in this complex social situation. Discuss who, when, where, and how to ask someone out.
Who is appropriate for you to ask out?
Someone around your age
who shows interest in you
is nice to you
talks to you
someone you like
When is it appropriate to ask someone out?
After you have gotten to know someone better
When you have noticed that you both seem to be interested in each other
Where is it appropriate to ask someone out?
Usually in a more private setting when not a lot of people are around
typically it is best to do it in person, but you can also call someone on the phone.
Texting may not be as a personal way to ask someone out
How do you ask someone out?
in person you can ask if they are free at a certain time that you could go to a place of mutual interest
make sure to get contact information to confirm the date, time, and location ahead of time
How do you show appropriate touch during a date?
Make sure to talk about safe and appropriate physical touch
talk about how to hold hands, give a hug, or a kiss
talk about inappropriate types of physical touch and how to read body cues and signs of how someone may like or not like the type of touch.
Discuss different levels of intimacy
Help them understand the difference between hand holding, hugging, kissing, and more intimate types of touching to help them stay safe.
Talk about the steps/routine of a typical date
Make sure your teen knows when and where the date will take place
how they will get to the location
what they may do at the location (dinner, movie, bowling, party)
Help them understand appropriate personal hygiene cares and dressing skills
Dating is a complex social situation
We need to remember that dating is complex and overwhelming social situation. This may cause our teen frustration, anxiety, fear, or anger. Please be aware of how your teen is feeling about dating and be ready to help them through this situation as it pertains to them. Help them understand that rejection may also be apart of dating and how to help them through this as well. Help them understand that someone may not be interested in them even though they are interested. Or that someone may be too busy to date. It can be impossible to understand why someone may not be interested in you and this could be a hard skill for some teens to cope with.
Dating can be a positive situation and we need to stay proactive and help our teens through these unique situations. The more we can support our teen’s desires for dating and have open dialogue about the social situations it can be seen as a rewarding and positive experience.
Do you have further questions about dating? We would love to hear your advice and comments below.
This is a question we ask ourselves for our own family, but I hear this question all of the time as an occupational therapist, from parents of teens and children with autism. We hear you and we understand the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that you are feeling. We are constantly thinking about the future and we try to picture what that future may look for my teenage brother. Our minds are thinking and turning and trying our best to predict the future for him, but in reality we cannot figure out what the future will hold. We never know what the future will bring, but we are trying our best to help prepare him. We are trying to guess if he will be able to live on his own.
The autism spectrum is extremely variable and every person has unique strengths. Every person is unique and it is impossible to determine what the future will hold for any person. We take it day by day and help my brother learn valuable skills each day.
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Parents, you are doing the best that you can
Here are 5 statements to remember each day, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.
1. Remember to Breathe
When you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious remember to take a step back and breathe. You may not know the answers, but you won’t be better at figuring out a solution when you are all worked up and anxious.
2. Let go of what you can’t control
There are so many things in our lives that we cannot control. I know I am someone that tries to control as much as I can, but I realize that I need to let go and trust the process.
3. Seek out help when you need it
You can’t do it all on your own. Seek our help from family, friends, or professionals to help provide you with support and resources to help your family.
4. Love your Child/Teenager
Never forget what is most important in your life. Enjoy the moment now with your teen. Don’t get caught up thinking so much about the future that you forget to savor the moment you are in now. This is still a great time in their life and you want to be able to present now as well. Love your teenager for who they are.
5. Remember to take care of yourself
If you are overworked and overwhelmed constantly, you won’t be able to provide the best care for your teen. Find ways to take time for yourself and find activities that you enjoy and can recharge your own energy. The better we feel, the more we can do for our family.
We Never Know what the Future will be like for our Teens
We cannot predict the future, but we can take steps each day to help our loved one learn valuable skills. We can also be present with them and love them for who they are. I don’t want you to get so caught up with wanting to “change” your teen or make them conform to what society tells us is “normal”. Embrace your teen for who they are and help embrace their strengths. Find out what motivates them and what makes them happy. We can do so much for our teens if we can help guide them to find their passions.
Finding their Passions can help guide them into their future as an adult.
Every person seeks out to find their passions and what brings them purpose in life. I want to be able to wake up every day and be happy with who I am as a person and do meaningful work each day. This idea looks so different for each of us. Helping your teen to find what makes them happy and what brings them meaning can help them as they transition into adulthood.
I would love to hear what your passions are in the comments below. What are things that make you happy each day?
If you are looking for more ideas on specific skills to help your teen as they transition into adulthood check out our list of life skills below.
HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILDREN LEARN LIFE SKILLS?
Understand that when we are trying to learn something new there can be a lot of frustration for the child and for you as a parent. Know that it may take your child longer to learn something then it did for you or for your other children. We all learn at different speeds and with different learning styles. Keep in mind that every child is unique and will take love, guidance, and support from you as the parent.
TIPS ON HOW TO STAY CALM:
First is to BREATHE, this may seem simple, but slow deep breaths can calm the body.
LET GO. Let go of your frustrations and various failures in the past. This is a new journey today and we need to learn to let go of things that have happened in the past.
Look at the Big Picture. Envision the end result for your child of the end goal of helping them to be independent with that specific skill.
Enjoy the journey and the process for the opportunity to help teach and raise your child. Your child looks up to your for support and guidance and these are the little moments in life when you get to be a parent and share these experiences together.
Try to practice the skill during times when you know you will be less stressed as a parent. If you have big life events going on and you don’t have the time to spend working on the skill with your child, maybe now is not the time to start a new skill
Do not picture perfection when teaching this skill. As the parent you will make mistakes as well as your child. Enjoy the process and learn from everyone’s mistakes.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD STAY CALM WHEN TEACHING THEM A NEW SKILL:
COMMUNICATE WITH THEM WHAT YOU ARE WANTING
Be specific in what we are going to be working on. Let them know we are going to work on a specific skill together, so they understand what they will be doing.
SET UP A CALM TRANSITION
Help your child transition from whatever they are doing to working on this skill with kind words and positive energy. When we are using positive words with our children they can feel safer and enjoy the activity better.
LEAVE TIME FOR THE TRANSITION
Some people need to know ahead of time that the activity is coming. It can be calming to some people and it can create anxiety for others. It might mean that you say in 10 minutes it will be time to brush your teeth. For someone else it might be a timer that runs out. For some it works best it nothing is said ahead of time and you just go do the activity when it’s time. Transitions can look different for each individual.
BE RESPECTFUL AT THE TRANSITION TIME
Try to imagine if you were in charge of when your spouse needed to take a shower or brush their teeth. Would you say, “Go brush your teeth!” How well do you think they would respond? Think what you would need to say to them that would create them to want to do that activity. If your child is watching TV you might say, “At the next commercial, it will be time to brush your teeth.” When your child is sensitive to transition times then creating a closure to their activity and stating what needs to be done in a respectful way will be helpful to their emotional needs.
SOUND CALM AND HAPPY WHEN IT’S TIME TO GO AND DURING THE ACTIVITY
How you act and sound can state if this activity will be fun or unpleasant. It’s important that you act and sound like what you are about to do together is something good. Learn to enjoy working together. How you respond can make or break the situation. Before you get started put in your mind that this will be fun and just enjoy and love your child. When you put on a smile it helps you and your child to enjoy the activity. You don’t really have control on how fast your child is going to learn something, but you do have control on just enjoying the moment.
SAY POSITIVE THINGS TO YOUR CHILD
When we say encouraging words to our child it promotes confidence and it moves both of us in a better direction. It speaks to acceptance, respectfulness, trust, love, kindness, understanding, and success. You’re giving life to the good and promoting the activity to be seen with love. They get to know that you’re expressing the good in what you see and that you’re not a faultfinder. You are not emphasizing the things that they need to do better, because they don’t like to make mistakes. Mistakes can be the reason they don’t want to do the activity in the first place. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they are doing right. When you are helping them, you become an extension to them. So they are going to want the other part of them to be for them and not against them.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Keep in mind that what you say is not always understood or even heard by your child. If they are thinking and trying to do something, they may not be able to hear you. They may not understand body language or your tone. If you feel a little frustrated and you think your child should pick up on that, they may not have that ability to read that on your body language or the tone of your speech. It’s best to keep frustration away from these skills, because it creates confusion for your child and slows down the process.
Your child wants to express things to you as well, but the ability to communicate effectively can get in the way of progress. If your child wants a wash cloth and they don’t know how to say that and you don’t know what they need, then it’s hard to accomplish the goal. Some people want to use their hands to communicate instead of their voice. Sometimes they can talk, but they want to rely on their hand pounding on something that is supposed to get your attention to know what they want. However the two of you communicate, the important part is that you both understand each other. There are times where your child needs you to give them some wait time to process information. It’s easier to guide a person from one specific part of an activity to another, but sometimes they need us to give them time to start it by themselves. That might mean that you’re standing there waiting for them to get started with the next part. Sometimes they get stuck or you can see their anxiety rising, so those wouldn’t be times when you would wait for them to move onto the next part. Anxiety or frustration isn’t what you want to see during the life skills process. Try to create a flow that’s theirs and realize that it’s going to look different then how you would do it. Allow for their strengths and individuality to come out.
Check out our FREE task analysis charts to help you break down the personal hygiene skills as you teach them to your child.
Are you looking for more help with teaching your teen life skills to help them as they transition into adulthood? Check out our Life Skills Checklist to help you understand what skills to help teach your teen to help their transition into adulthood!
WHAT CAN WE DO AS PARENTS TO HELP OUR CHILDREN WITH THEIR SENSORY PROCESSING NEEDS FOR PERSONAL HYGIENE CARES FOR SOUND SENSITIVITIES?
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Some children and adults can have sensitive hearing that may affect their ability to complete personal hygiene self care skills in the bathroom. They may experience ear pain during certain tasks such as the toilet flushing or hearing the hand dryer. How can we help in these situations?
Set up an environment that moves in a positive direction for their sensory system. If the child is sensitive to sound then don’t spend time in loud situations or not for very long and have places in your house that work well for someone that is sensitive to sound. Chose activities where sound isn’t an issue. Realize that some days they will be more sensitive than other days and noise may not affect them as much when the activity is highly motivating to them. Let them regulate the sound. Have hearing checked when it’s appropriate and finding professionals that help with sound sensitivities like occupational therapists or audiologists. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns with your child’s ears.
WAYS TO HELP THE CHLD COPE WITH SOUND SENSITIVITIES:
Give them Advance Warning that a situation may be noisy
Help them find a place in the bathroom away from the noisy areas. Remind them about self flushing toilets or automatic hand dryers
Find ways to help muffle the sounds that affect them. Try over the ear headphones or ear plugs nearby to help, but we do not want to cancel out the sound entirely as this could pose a safety risk.
Encourage them to use their visual system and focus on what they are seeing. Sometimes it can be hard to discriminate what they are hearing and what is important to listen to. If they can focus on what they are seeing this can help them decide what they are hearing and what is important to listen to.
Problem solve with other professionals, parents, kids, or teachers. The more we can reach out to others to help our child the more likely we can all help find a solution to help our child. Reaching out for help can help us all think of solutions we may not have thought of on our own.
Try out new situations and loud situations slowly. If you are going out in public to a new situation, call ahead and find out when they are least busy to help create a more quieter environment. If you are trying out a new situation at home go slowly and explain the new situation to them so they can have an understanding of what to expect.
Help them learn to advocate for themselves. Help teach them to tell others when the sounds are too loud for them or are upsetting to them. For instance if they are at a friends house and the TV is too loud, teach them how to politely ask them to turn the volume down.
TRY OUT THESE SOUND TOOLS:
Wearing headphones during tasks that are safe (when water won’t get them wet)
This ebook can help you teach your child how to shower, take a bath, wash their face, brush their teeth, brush their hair, and use the toilet. Plus we provide tons of sensory strategies and behavioral strategies!!
Are you looking for more help and ideas for life skills for your teenager? Fill out our form below to get your FREE copy of our Life Skills Checklist for Teenagers with Autism for Transitioning into Adulthood!