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Regression in Teens With Autism

By Martha Holden ; Updated April 18, 2017
Emotional changes in teens with autism may lead to aggression.

Regression in teens with autism makes them revert to childish behavior that may include tantrums, violence, social withdrawals and refusal to speak. The adolescent years come with emotional and hormonal changes that overwhelm autistic teens, and affect their behavior in attempt to deal with the confusion. You can help your teen by constantly explaining the changes in his body and being patient with him.

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Emotional Changes

Emotional changes in teens with autism may lead to aggression, sudden outbursts, self-injurious behavior, screaming or an emotional breakdown. Anticipate the outbursts and lead your child to a safe place where he can slowly calm down, for example, the bedroom or the backyard. During these emotional outbursts, keep your autistic teen away from other children in the house, as he may direct the aggression toward them. Pick your battles; learn to let go and only address important issues to avoid arguments with the child.


Autistic teens often experience seizures at puberty. Some experience clinical seizures, which come with convulsions, while others experience subclinical seizures that can go unnoticed, according to the Autism Research Institute's Dr. Stephen M Edelson, who has a master's and a doctorate in experimental psychology. Signs of subclinical seizures include behavioral problems such as aggression and tantrums, loss of cognitive gains and lack of academic improvement after a period of good performance. You should consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and start your teen on appropriate treatment.


Regression may lead to loss of communication skills. Preliminary findings by the International Autistic Network, reported on the Autism Speaks website, note that an autistic teen may lose language and speech skills, which affect her social skills. Your child may resort to communicating through gestures and single sounds as opposed to talking. Encourage your teen to talk by engaging her in conversations constantly. Additionally, enroll her in speech therapy to help prevent total loss of communication skills taught earlier.


Regression in autistic teens is a common occurrence, but it does not happen in all cases. Adolescent changes may affect your child’s life as an adult either positively or negatively. The management of these changes requires a multidisciplinary functional approach, which entails participation from teachers, your therapist, caregivers and other siblings. Anticipating the changes helps you prepare psychologically and deal with your teen accordingly.

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About the Author

Martha Holden began writing professionally in 2002. She has contributed articles on food, weddings, travel, human resources/management and parenting to numerous publications. Holden holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Houston.

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