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.

While the brain is undergoing this ‘upgrade’ through adolescence, the typical teen 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 for all teenagers.

In individuals with autism, research has found that the connections between different areas of the brain are different from typically developing individuals (see 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 (see references).

Interpreting and processing information differently may result in individuals with autism selecting an unusual or sometimes inappropriate response.

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