For the most part, the medical issues of childhood improve during the teenage years, but there can be some new challenges. Puberty is tough, even among children with typical development. In children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the body changes that occur with puberty can create new challenges. Adolescence is a peak time for children with ASDs to develop seizures, the other time being the preschool years.
Likewise, a child with an ASD who has tics may find his tics worsening on entering adolescence. If your child has been an extremely finicky eater, he may experience difficulty keeping up with the growth demands of adolescence. It is important to continue to work with your pediatrician on these and other medical conditions because treating them will help your child prepare to meet the challenges of adolescence.
Transitioning to an Adult Health Care Professional
Adolescence also is the time to start preparing for the transition of your child’s medical care to an adult health care professional.
Where We Stand
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that families of children with disabilities begin planning and setting long-term goals for the future health care needs of their children at age 12 years. A health care transition plan should be developed with health care professionals by the time a child is 14 years old. Starting early allows for time to teach self-management skills and prepare children and families for the choices they will need to make.
It is important to plan this transition with your child’s pediatrician well in advance to avoid lapses in meeting your child’s health care needs. Many families have found it difficult to find adult providers with experience in treating adults with ASDs. Your pediatrician can help you in the process of identifying adult primary care practitioners and specialists who will be part of the adult medical team. Once that happens, a plan can be made to transfer important health information between providers and a date can be set for when the transition takes place.
More information on health care transitions is available on the AAP National Center for Medical Home Implementation Web site and the National Health Care Transition Center Web site (www.gottransition.org).