Asperger Teens: Handling a Crisis

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • For the teen with Asperger's syndrome (AS), every day can be filled with frustration and overstimulation. Hopefully, you and your teen have learned what works best during these times. For example, your teen might retreat to his room for some down time, spend time interacting with his special interest or doing some physical activity. But life is also filled with crises, those times when the normal frustrations, overstimulation or overwhelming emotions go beyond the "normal" daily crisis. Examples include:

    • Loss of someone important in your teen's life, either through death or moving to a new area
    • Health issues, either in your teen or someone in your family
    • Having a parent lose their job, having to move or change schools

    A crisis may not happen because of a single incident but can be a combination of different situations, for example, you may have had a death in the family and your teen seemed to deal with it well, however, your child is entering a new school and suddenly he can't seem to cope with anything. The combination of the death and starting something new is too much.

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    Some teens have outgrown meltdowns. They no longer throw items, yell, scream or cry. But as any parent of a teen with AS knows, meltdowns or the inability to cope, are often just below the surface, waiting to erupt. Your teen's difficulty regulating emotions can cause sometimes strange reactions. He may seem as if a death or major loss doesn't affect him, but then one day he explodes over something trivial and seemingly unrelated. But for him, this small event triggered his emotions about the previous loss and although he has a hard time explaining it, he is trying to express how he feels.


    If this is a family crisis, such as the death of a family member, it may be easy to pinpoint what triggered the crisis and you can work with your teen on expressing how he is feeling. Other times, the crisis can occur because of something outside the family and you aren't sure what is going on.  If your teen is going through a difficult time or facing a situation that is hard to deal with emotionally, look out for signs of distress. This may include changes in sleeping patterns, headaches, inability to cope with normal activities, loss of interest in activities, agitation or irritability. Remember, these can also be typical of the changing moods of teens, so it is important to not over-react. Instead, try to find out as much information about the situation as you can.  


    The following are some tips for parents to help teens through an emotional crisis:

    • Stay calm. Your teen's emotions may be out of control and he needs to know that you are in control. If you become upset, it will only further his emotional turmoil.
    • Let your teen know you are available to help him solve the problem. Tell him you can't solve the problem for him but you can help him find ways to cope with the situation. Let him know you understand how difficult this is and that you want to help.
    • If your teen is having an emotional or physical meltdown, take steps to calm him down before discussing the situation. During a meltdown, your teen probably can't hear you or process what you are saying. Instead, use strategies to calm him down and let him know you will talk about the situation later.
    • If you can pinpoint the source of the crisis, keep your conversation focused on the problem. If your teen starts to rant or ramble about different topics, refocus the conversation on the current situation. Explain that you can only help him solve the problem by focusing on it.
    • Some crises occur because your teen is facing a new situation. Keep in mind that you not only need to solve the immediate problem but help him learn strategies for coping with a similar situation in the future. Talk about different options for solving the problem.
    • Try to break your solution into specific steps your teen can follow. If he is still in emotional turmoil, remind him that the steps may need to be repeated.

    Make sure your teen is involved in the problem solving. Don't tell him what to do or how to do it, instead, give several options on how the situation can be resolved and ask for his input on what he feels most comfortable doing.


Published On: November 02, 2011