Jacob was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was 4 years old. His parents had started him in applied behavioral analysis therapy. occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy at the time of his diagnosis and, by all accounts from his parents, had done very well up until the point they came to see me. Jacob was 14 and had begun high school. He had an individualized educational plan (IEP) in place and was mostly in inclusion classrooms, being pulled into special education classes, a few times a week. He was well loved by many of his peers and got along very well with his teachers.
However, over the past few months, Jacob had been experiencing more behavioral problems than normal. He would get extremely emotional, sometimes angry, sometimes tearful, when things didn’t go his way. His hand flapping had increased in frequency and intensity and he was having trouble sleeping through the night. He’d also been caught lying to his mom on four different occasions, which was definitely out of character for him.
As children move into their teen years and puberty, behavioral disturbances are common. This is also true for kids on the autism spectrum. Hormonal fluctuations and changes had undoubtedly contributed to Jacob’s recent behavioral issues and we were able to use small doses of medication to help improve his impulse control and emotional regulation. This allowed Jacob to continue succeeding at school and decreased stress at home.
While there is no medication that cures autism spectrum disorders, medication and therapy can be incredibly helpful in managing many of the limiting behaviors and issues that arise, especially during adolescence. It is also important to remember that teens with autism can also experience episodes of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues and these need to be treated, just like in any neurotypically developing teen.
“When I got to high school, it was really hard for me to control some things. I had a hard time sitting in class without standing up or making noise. I didn’t really know that high school would be so serious. It was hard and I felt bad. But then my parents took me to the doctor and I started taking this little white pill every night before bed. It’s helped me be calmer and quieter in class which I think is a good thing because other kids don’t get upset with me and my teachers seem happier with my behavior.”Sam, age 15
“Emily has always been very mild mannered and sweet. When she hit about age 13, her entire personality changed. She was angry and wanted to stay in her room all the time. She seemed to stop caring about her friends and couldn’t stand her siblings, whom she’d always adored. We were so worried about her. Turns out you can have autism and depression. I’m glad we listened to our pediatrician and sought help from WellPsyche. Her therapist was able to identify what was going on and work with her on tools to improve her mood. She also referred us to a WellPsyche psychiatrist who prescribed her medication for the depression. Emily responded beautifully and is back to her normal, happy self. I’m glad we didn’t just chalk her behavior up to another aspect of autism.Christa, Emily's Mom
MANY famous and highly successful people have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some of those people include, Heather Kuzmich, who was a contestant on season 9 of America’s Next Top Model; Satoshi Tajiri who created Pokémon; Hans Christian Andersen who was a famous children’s author; Lewis Carroll who wrote“Alice in Wonderland;” and Steve Jobs who was the former CEO of Apple, just to name a few.
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