The Teenage Brain and Autism

The transition from childhood to adulthood is associated with significant growth and development. During adolescence the brain, like a computer, gets upgraded software and develops stronger more efficiently wired connections. This “upgrading” creates greater speed and richer connections across the brain allowing the brain to make more sophisticated decisions, and balance impulses, desires, goals, self-awareness, rules, ethics to name but a few, which in turn generates behaviour which is more complex (and in theory) more sensible. (Ortega and Choudhury, 2011)

While the brain is undergoing this “upgrade” through adolescence, the typical teenager is also expected to attend school, make friendships, gain knowledge, become more independent, take on more household chores and possibly gain employment. All of which can make the teenage years a difficult transition.

When discussing autistic teenagers, research has found that the connections between different areas of the brain are different from their non autistic peers. (References).

These differences in the brain have been found to affect the way social information, emotional interpretation, language, memory, attention, anxiety, obsessive thinking, repetitive behaviours, eye motion control, arousal, compulsions, motor function and sensory stimuli are interpreted and processed (References).

Interpreting and processing information differently may result in autistic teenagers selecting an unusual or sometimes inappropriate response.

For these reasons, autistic teenagers can find the transition from childhood to adulthood particularly difficult.