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Growing Up Autistic

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My teen son has autism, and I've worried that girls would never appreciate my handsome, kind, generous teenage son because he lacks the skills to flirt or read subtle cues.

serious looking woman

Claire LaZebnik: When my son was diagnosed with autism over fifteen years ago, it felt like no one -- including and especially my husband and me -- knew much about the disorder. People instantly went to the "Rain Man" place, asking us what savant traits he possessed (none) and marveling that he still liked to hug and cling to his parents.

I didn't realize until later that he was part of a wave that would lead people to call the recent increase in autism an "epidemic." New statistics show that one in 150 kids is on the spectrum, and I see that statistic reflected in the increased availability of books, articles, and news stories offering guidance to parents of young children with autism. But all those kids who were part of that initial "wave" are growing up. They're not little kids anymore, and their needs are changing.

A few years later, I wrote an essay for the New York Times' "Modern Love" column describing my fears that girls would never appreciate my handsome, kind, generous teenage son because he lacked the skills to flirt or read subtle cues. The outpouring of e-mails I got made me realize how seldom anyone addresses the concerns of parents of teens and young adults with autism. So Dr. Lynn Koegel (clinical director of the Koegel Autism Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara) and I wrote Growing Up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's.

Our goal is to help parents guide their older children toward independence and personal fulfillment. We tackle subjects that have rarely been discussed for kids with autism: navigating the challenges of college, finding a meaningful career, dating successfully, even marrying and having children.

Many young adults with autism are succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams, including my own son. Our goal is to make sure that their success continues through all the most fraught -- and potentially most wonderful -- milestones of life.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen April 27, 2009, 1:35 PM

Thank you so much for all you have done with writing the book. We have a young daughter who is on the autism spectrum and I feel extremely fortunate that the way has been paved for me and services for our daughter are now widely available(well almost). I am excited that their are books out their for teens dealing with this as well because that means that one day I have a resource to turn to.
Thanks so much, it’s greatly appreciated.

marsha April 27, 2009, 8:55 PM

this is especially touching for me because my son is dyslexic instead of autistic. and being in an asian family, they don’t understand what this is and thinks he is dumb. lucky for him he’s got a mother who knows better! :-P

Shelley April 27, 2009, 11:41 PM

Writing this book and sharing will mean so much to so many families. My best friend from high school has run into so many of these issues with her son- dating, who will love him etc. It touches my heart to have these concerns addressed out loud.

Have you run into The Listening Program yet? They have had some pretty interesting results.

Renee May 1, 2009, 4:38 AM

Hello, I have not yet bought the book, but I’m going to this weekend. My oldest daughter is in the process of being diagnosed with Autism, but here is the thing. She is 17. How common is it for someone to go so long before being diagnosed with Autism? I remember talking over and over with her pediatritian (spelling?) and his response was..”if I didn’t know any better I would say she is retarted”. I still to this day do not know what that is supposed to mean. She has a different dr. now. My husband and I have been researching for a long time when recently we came across an article on Autism and it was like we wrote it! Anyway, thank you for this book. Im looking forward to getting it.

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