When someone has autism, their neural pathways work differently from the get go. In the brain specifically, the white matter (the part responsible for relaying signals and messages from one section of the brain to another, and for sending sensory and motor stimulus to the central nervous system to create a response) will increase greatly from ages 4 to 20.
People with autism are the same as everyone in the fact that their bodies are always trying to return to a state of homoeostasis (the tendency to try and maintain internal equilibrium). However, during growth spurts, the body is far away from its ideal state of homoeostasis, even during sleep.
What does that mean for a child or adolescent with autism? It means that the part of the brain that sends sensory signals is rapidly growing, which means new pathways are developing, and just like in a field, it takes time for a pathway to become easy to walk, and familiar. This means their brains are trying to send signals through new channels.
It makes sense that they will have more difficulties during those times of rapid growth with many aspects of daily living that they might not have had as much difficulty with pre or post growth spurt.
How you can help your child or adolescent with autism?
Remember that this is a difficult time for them
They don’t want to feel out of control, upset, confused, agitated or anxious and yet they are right now. No one WANTS to feel those emotions, and will naturally try to do whatever they can to either get away from the situation causing them, or lash out in frustration if it’s an internal situation they cannot remove themselves from.
Don’t overload them
If recently you’ve been helping them to learn how to cope with a specific sensory issue or speech production issue such as pronunciation, remember that even when they are not going through a growth spurt they have to expend mental energy to master things such as being able to touch grass or pronounce an “s” sound correctly. Don’t stop working on goals already started, but don’t add additional ones until they have mastered the goals they are currently working on.
Every person has a way they communicate
Listen/watch extra carefully to theirs to learn more about what ways they are specifically struggling with the most. Help them to create plans to work through such issues, or if they are too young to either make the plans themselves or with help, make them for your child.
If you are having a difficult time staying calm remember that you have the right to feel however you do, it’s how we react to our emotions that is either okay or not. Take time for yourself, especially if you are extremely frustrated. As long as your child is in a safe environment there is nothing wrong with stepping into the next room to take a few minutes to regain your composure. Or if you can, find someone you trust to babysit and go out, even a trip to the grocery store alone can be enough to come back to your child ready to help them in the ways they need.
Nothing lasts forever, even growth spurts
Eventually they will hit a “lull” in their growth for a few or even several months at which time it will be easier for them to handle all that our fast-paced society throws at us.
Source: Autism Parenting Magazine