Teen Autism Treatment

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by a myriad of symptoms with different levels of severity, ultimately leading to an autism diagnosis. Autism usually has a primary manifestation of repetitive behavior, communication issues, and trouble with socialization.

In the past, teens who were characterized as having “strong verbal language and intellectual ability” were considered to be “mild or high functioning” and were diagnosed with Asperger’s. As of 2013, Asperger’s is no longer an official diagnosis. Teens are now classified as having autism spectrum disorder no matter how their symptoms present.

What Does Autism Spectrum Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens with autism spectrum disorder often trouble communicating. They have trouble participating in conversations with more than one person, especially if there are multiple topics. They also have difficulty switching from one topic to another.
  • Teens on the autism spectrum are known for being inflexible, experiencing high levels of stress during periods of change. They often present with repetitive action patterns and may frequently make certain motions whens peaking or expressing emotion. They are highly ritualized.
  • Almost all teens with autism show symptoms at a young age. There are a few instances in which they mask their symptoms until they are older; usually until they are no longer able to keep up socially. Those with milder forms of autism can learn behaviors that hide their symptoms.
  • Children with autism are diagnosed when their behaviors do not align with known intellectual disabilities. Autism and intellectual disabilities do sometimes co-occur, but are not at all the same. Children with intellectual disabilities struggle with problem solving, math, cognitive skills, reasoning, and emotions. Children with autism struggle with ticks, social issues, and some limited physical symptoms.

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Social challenges

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Communication difficulties

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Avoidance of physical contact

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Strange risk taking

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Prefers solitude

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Ticks and physical quirks

Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

Strange phobias or anxieties

What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

There are several risk factors that can be attributed to the development of autism, including genetics. Vaccines are NOT a cause. Only one study has ever attempted to claim vaccines were the cause, and it was discredited. Other studies have tried to find a link and have failed. Confirmed risk factors include:

Genetics – Other cases of autism in the family can increase a child’s risk of developing the disorder. Genetic syndromes like fragile X and Rett can also increase the risk of autism.

Parent Age – Some studies indicate that older parents are more likely to have children with autism.

Exposure to Chemicals During Pregnancy – While antidepressants and antipsychotics have not been linked to autism, substances like alcohol have been. Women who are simply in poor health, or who have metabolic syndromes like diabetes, are also more likely to have children with autism.

Prenatal Viral Infection – While not well-researched, some scientists believe there may be a link between viral infections like cytomegalovirus and rubella virus during pregnancy. They believe the viruses disrupt the mother’s immune system and cause changes in the way the fetus develops. This link has yet to be fully confirmed but evidence is significant.

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Teen Autism Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


US citizens are on the autism spectrum


of those with autism were at one time diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD/NOS


people have been diagnosed with Asperger’s

How Can I Help My Teen with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Remember, They’re Teenagers - Autism behaviors are sometimes frustrating, but it’s important to remember that hormonal shifts during the teen years can make symptoms seem worse. Teenagers, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not, tend to be uncooperative and difficult at times. Not all of the behaviors you see will be a result of Autism.

Soothing Anxieties - A lot of teens on the autism spectrum have social or general anxiety, and some even have extreme phobias. They tend to be bullied more than their peers, leading to a cycle of emotional abuse and low self-esteem; all of which worsens their symptoms. Work with your teen’s psychiatrist or therapist to find relaxation techniques your teen can use in a calm home environment. The goal is to help your teen avoid complete withdrawal, which ultimately makes anxiety worse.

Guide Them Through Puberty - The teenage body goes through a lot of changes (sooner for girls than for boys). It’s important to talk to your child about puberty before it begins so that they aren’t surprised and overwhelmed when things start to happen. This also means having discussions about sex. While difficult, these talks will not only emphasize the need for protection but will also help your teen ward off unwanted or inappropriate advances. You’ll also need to emphasize personal hygiene and time importance of keeping personal details private, as many teens with autism have trouble discerning which topics of conversation are appropriate.

What Type of Teen Autism Treatment Is Available?

Teens with autism spectrum disorder often benefit from behavioral training. Therapy, medication, and other forms of care may be added depending on whether or not there are any co-existing disorders. There is no cure for autism, but many teens who receive intervention and treatment can live very successful lives. While some teens will grow up to need daily support, and others can live independently, most fall into the middle of the spectrum and are able to function with minimal support from family and friends.


Medications are not commonly used to treat autism itself. Most are used to help teens handle the symptoms associated with related mood disorders, like anxiety or depression. In these cases, stimulants or antidepressants are the most common forms of treatment. In some cases, risperidone is used to treat autism symptoms, but this drug is usually limited to children between five and 16 years of age.

Social Skills Training and Behavioral Therapy

The goal of therapy is to help teenagers learn to develop normal social skills. This means teaching them to recognize and understand their symptoms so they can better control them. This makes it easier for them to build relationships, do well in school, and ultimately land jobs. Behavioral therapies, occupational programs, and social skills training are all incorporated into the treatment plan to the level a teen’s symptoms will allow.

Speech Therapy

Many children with autism have trouble speaking, and this issue can carry into the teenage years. Speech impediments can be particularly difficult for teenagers who are already struggling to hold normal conversations or make friends. Eliminating this barrier is critical and will allow all other aspects of therapy to fall into place.

Teen Autism Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

We recognize that each teen has unique needs, so our skilled team of mental health professionals all work together to make each one feel welcome. Most embrace teen autism treatment, which helps them to feel like they’re fitting in with others. They need specific help understanding how the world around them operates. This helps them to learn to have normal reactions while expressing themselves more clearly. Our therapists will work closely with the families of teens with more severe forms of autism so they can learn how to best support their child.

Open to Everyone

Because autism exists on a spectrum, we do not diagnose children with specific disorders. As noted earlier, Asperger’s is not an allowable diagnosis any longer. All teens on the spectrum are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This doesn’t mean everyone receives the same treatment. At Paradigm San Francisco, we work to make sure each teen’s individual plan directly addresses their unique symptoms and behaviors.

Teen Support

All of the teens in our program are encouraged to support each other. They work together to practice social skills, participate in group exercises, and generally support each other as they meet new people and form new friendships. Many teens with autism avoid people because they fear rejection. We work closely with each teen to improve their social and communication skills, acknowledging the bravery it takes to build this type of confidence.

 Our teen was recently admitted to Paradigm Malibu and is doing very well so far. I’ve been happy with the experience. I would recommend to anyone looking into teen counseling. 

– J. D. B.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Autism Treatment

Why are cases of autism rising so rapidly?

Rates of autism were reported to be 1 in 88 back in 2012, but are now estimated to be 1 in 40. This is a significant change, but one that is not attached to any specific cause. There are no known changes to autism risk factors and, despite false reports, children who receive vaccines do not develop autism as a side effect.

What has changed is the way we screen children for autism. We are more aware and have better screening tools, especially for girls (who do not typically present the same way boys do). The numbers may have risen not because there are more cases, but because there are more known cases. There can be significant differences between teens diagnosed with autism, with some needing far more support than others.

What is the status of autism research?

There is regular progress in autism research. One of the more recent discoveries relates to the genetic factors surrounding the development of autism. These discoveries are furthering our understanding of the differences between children and adults with and without autism.

The differences are important because they help us determine which treatments are most helpful. We may also one day be able to determine how to prevent or reduce the incidences of autism and different neurological disorders in the womb.

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