I noticed at the doctor's office today that my child, who was once able to hide under the exam room sink, is now too big to fit under there. He is almost too big to even lie on the examining table without his feet hanging off. My 15-year-old is getting so big I can hardly stand it.
We are of course in a time warp, as I am sure many parents are. He is 15, still working on potty training, still enjoying Disney cartoon movies. But, he is also beginning to like popular music and getting particular about his clothing. He loves his blue jeans and cool sunglasses—they make his ensemble look complete. He watches dance moves on the Disney Channel shows and attempts to copy them while watching himself ever so closely in the mirror.
But puberty has also brought with it slamming doors, longer fits or tantrums, and times I just can't figure out if I am talking to a teen, a child, or a toddler. I stay confused.
I think the first thing to do is to stay calm. Reasoning with him clearly doesn't seem to be the right answer most of the time. An option that is beginning to work, when in a safe environment, is to ignore these behaviors until he calms down. Then we can discuss what happened and better ways to behave in the future.
My husband and I just smile at each other when we think about the quieter, younger days, but then we remember that they included minimal talking and personality. So I, for one, am very grateful for the progress we have made with speech and communication in this world of autism.
Yes, my 15-year-old is continuing to grow like a weed, but he will always be my child. By the way, if you have never heard Barry Manilow's song “I Am Your Child,” you need to hear it, with a box of tissue beside you.
You can learn more about teens with disabilities on this website. To find other excellent articles on this topic, enter the term ‘puberty’ in the search bar.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.