Reflections on Autism and the Teenage Years


Here we are in the new year, and I’m struggling. It’s an internal struggle, and I’m having a hard time shaking it. The new year is never easy for me, and I think it may be tied to the fact that my dad passed away on New Year’s Day in 1992.

I get severe anxiety and sadness every year around this time.

I think the anxiety this year may also be tied to my autistic daughter, Olivia, returning to school. This has not been the best school year for her. It has improved some since the beginning of the year, but there is still an uneasy feeling and energy surrounding school.

We have had some behaviors return this year, and I’m trying to sort that out and find strategies to help alleviate that for everyone, but especially for her. It is really difficult for me to send her to school feeling that way and then not be able to ask her about how her day went.

It’s such a vulnerable situation to be in every single day.

The school break brings us a bit of peace from all the anxiety surrounding school. However, I also know that Olivia needs the routine and socialization of school, and I cannot take that away from her. So, I need to find a way to balance everything and find strategies to get us all through it.

Kate Swenson, from Finding Cooper’s Voice, has mentioned a second wave of grief that has come with the teenage years, and I feel that wholeheartedly.

For us, it is tied to physical and hormonal changes and the inability to have a conversation about that so I can help her navigate all of it. The differences between a typical teenager and my neurodiverse teen daughter have become extremely vast and obvious.

Typical teens text and have sleepovers; they play competitive sports; and they go to school dances. They have crushes and best friends. They babysit and go to the movies together. They can articulate their needs and walk through a grocery store unassisted. Olivia is not experiencing any of that.

I have also watched her younger cousins “leapfrog” over her in every aspect of life, and despite my best efforts to push my feelings about that down and away, sometimes it just stings.

I have accepted and am at peace with this journey through autism, but I am also human, and sometimes the worries are overwhelming. I get sad, and I have to grieve the differences. I also feel lonely because I can’t really explain it to other people.

When I struggle, I have to remind myself that this journey has many beautiful moments. Colors, textures, tastes, and small daily skills have more meaning than I ever realized before Olivia came along, and experiencing that is really precious.

Love is so much greater than just the spoken word.

Pure joy being expressed without the worry of what anyone else thinks in that moment is wonderfully freeing. I love that she has taught me all of those things and so much more.

I just wish more than anything that her path in life could be easier, and sometimes I have to sit with all of those feelings for a moment or two.

As I have said before, all the struggles and the beauty of our world will forever be intertwined.

Written by Laura Simzyk of Olivia’s Extraordinary Journey

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Laura Simzyk

Hi! My name is Laura Simzyk. I reside in Arizona with my husband and three kids. Our youngest daughter Olivia has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. I am a stay-at-home Mom and caretaker for our daughter. I write about our journey on Facebook at Olivia's Extraordinary Journey.

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