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.
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.
|Claire LaZebnik is the co-author, with Dr. Lynn Koegel, of Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Child's Life and Growing Up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's. She lives in Pacific Palisades with her husband and four kids.|