About the Author
Dr. Teresa Bolick is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorders. Her other books are Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World and Asperger Syndrome and Young Children: Building Skills for the Real World.
Autism and Adolescence
Dr. Teresa Bolick’s book is a welcome contribution to the literature on adolescence and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most books about the disorder address the problems of young children, even though adolescence is often the most challenging time for children with autism and their families.
During adolescence, those with autism may become more curious about other people. They crave social interaction yet feel more isolated than ever. The rapid physical growth and changes of puberty can cause mood swings and increased outbursts. Middle and High School poses unique challenges because students have more teachers and a more complex setting. For parents of teens with autism, adolescence becomes a “deadline decade” in which pressures mount to help their child prepare for independence, employment, and personal relationships.
Dr. Bolick designed this book as a guide to help parents navigate these uncharted and turbulent waters. She divides the book into ten chapters, covering topics including:
She presents each area and describes the problematic behaviors a child with autism may present at the beginnings of each chapter. The chapter ends with practical advice about the selected topic.
The descriptions of typical autism behaviors and even much of her advice will be familiar to those who have read other books about ADS. She cites many of the usual authorities and repeats anecdotes from famous adults with autism spectrum such as Liane Wiley and Temple Grandin. What really stands out in the book are stories about teens under her care as a clinician. The anecdotes bring the material to life and give it focus. They also reveal the author as a kind, compassionate listener who sees each person as an individual first–not a diagnosis of autism.
For example, readers get to meet “Ralph,” a high school junior, after his parents bring him to Dr. Bolick because he “talks funny” and upsets his classmates. It turns out that Ralph is speaking Arabic, a language he picked up when his father, an archaeologist, worked in Egypt. Even his parents didn’t realize Ralph has also picked up Spanish, French and Hebrew. He mumbles in Arabic to himself when he feels angry. Before his work with Dr. Bolick, everyone considered Ralph to be an odd, unmotivated student with no real academic talents.
There are only two drawbacks to this book. The first is that Dr. Bolick often seems behind the times. For example, she writes that when she was a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, “Guys called a girl a prude if she didn’t go ‘parking’ with her steady guy on Saturday night. Sometimes the steady guy threatened to break up if she didn’t at least go to ‘first base.’” Most of today’s parents were born long after the sexual revolution took place and would not relate to such statements.
The second drawback is the significant amount of time it would take out of parents’ already busy schedules to follow her advice. She explains how to teach your teenager mathematical operations, taking class notes, and preparing for school. She includes ideas for helping with non-verbal communication, when friends come over, and teaching daily affirmations. Some of the advice is too obvious, such as “don’t bring weapons to school.”
Nevertheless, Dr. Bolick’s book is a useful tool for parents of teens with ASD. Parents could simply read through it or use it as a reference tool whenever a problem arises. Dr. Bolick shows intelligence and compassion in the way she provides useful insights.
Other Books by Dr. Teresa Bolick: