The Challenges of Adolescence

I read an interesting article the other day thanks to Mr. Google and a post by Marie Hartwell-Walker, who happens to have a doctorate in education.  If you’re the parent of a teen with an intellectual or developmental disability, you’ll probably relate.  If you’re about to head into that stage with your child, here’s your advance warning.  And if you’ve slithered through that miserable time in one piece, please support those parents who are next in line.

We all know that adolescence brings its share of misery as hormones, emotions and expectations sort themselves out.  But Dr. Hartwell-Walker argues that the additional “trauma” of the disability means that your teens rely much more on predictability and stability in their lives than teens without an intellectual or developmental disability.  They are coming to grips with the fact that they are different from other teens.  They may not be able to look forward to getting a drivers licence or even differentiating between teasing and bullying.

So how do you handle it?  No, tearing out your hair isn’t an option.  Nor is keeping your normally placid darling in a bubble.

Dr. Hartwell-Walker has a few suggestions starting with recognizing that the behaviour is reflecting a real problem for them.  First, keep their external world as stable as possible.  I know, easier said than done because I confess that I didn’t do too good a job with that one.  Second, and I really like this one, explain A LOT. In language they can understand which means language that is quite literal.  Forget the metaphors, the similes, the figures of speech.

Now comes the really important stuff.  Remember when you were a teen and how important your friends were?  Your teens may need help building that kind of support system.  A teacher or a parent’s support group may be able to guide you here because with friends teasing and bullying just won’t have much of an impact.  But if they are, remind your teen to talk to an adult for extra support.

OK.  That wasn’t so bad, was it?  Well, even if it is right now, it won’t last forever; it will just seem like forever.

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