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Reality Scoop: National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month. According to the National Autism Society one of the nations leading grassroots autism organization, as many as one in 500 teens are thought to have autism,  Statistics have also proven that the possibility of boys having autism is more typical than in girls. Teenagers that have autism have most likely been diagnosed when they were young during their toddler years.  It should also be noted that autism is a developmental disorder and should not be mistaken for a personality disorder.  Teens that are autistic can learn skills to help interact socially with others.  In addition, most autistic teens are able to engage in school classes and age appropriate activities. Many teens with autism have been found to have an above-average intelligence.

The National Autism Society found that autism can be hard to distinguish because it is what is called a spectrum disorder. When you hear someone talk about the spectrum, this means the different severity levels of autism that require support. Level 3, requiring very substantial support, Level 2, requiring substantial support, and Level 1, requiring support.  This also means that teens with autism are all different on the spectrum levels and will not have the same symptoms, this is why it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Ultimately, autism affects all teens differently.

cc image via Flickr user Vladimir Pustovit
cc image via Flickr user Vladimir Pustovit

Autism Speaks is a foundation that is working hard to raise awareness of autism.  The Autism Speaks foundation has found that many educators are not prepared to adapt their teaching methods to meet the state standards and the increasingly diverse needs of teens with autism.  Veronica Fleury an author that writes for the University of North Carolina’s Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders has been advocating to help teachers focus more on students with autism and hopes that schools will realize that jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be ideal careers for many teens with autism.  Fleury has proven with her research that many college students with autism are interested in concentrating on STEM courses.  According to Fleury, “High school students with ASD also need ample opportunities to practice skills across settings throughout the school day…  Teaching them to monitor their own behavior can help them to use their skills in a variety of settings.”

It should also be acknowledged that not every individual with autism supports the message and work of Autism Speaks.

There are a lot of books that feature teens with autism. These books show varying degrees or levels of compassion and understanding to teens with autism and relay the message that we should treat teens with autism with kindness and warmth.  Most importantly we need to remember just because a teen has autism, it should not define who they are, nor should we expect teens with autism to let it define what they can achieve in their lives.  We should remember that the possibilities of positivity, growth, and success for teens with autism are limitless.

Reality Scoop: Importance of Sleep for Teens

Sleep is so important for teens because they are always on the go with school, sports, projects, and the many activities in their lives.  Ever notice how sleepy they are too?  It’s almost as though they are going through life clamoring for more sleep.  Research from the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center shows that most teens can’t get enough sleep.  They are at an important stage in their growth and development and they need more sleep than grown ups.  According to the Sleep Disorder Center, the average teen should get at least nine of hours of sleep to feel sharp and rested the next day.  Take into consideration that there are different factors that can keep teens from having ample time for sleeping.  Some causes that may cause teens to lose sleep are:

  • Changes in their bodies
  • Overloaded schedules
  • Exertive social lives
  • Confused perspective of sleep

The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences & Medicine has done extensive evaluations of teens with sleep problems.  Their conclusion is that teens that have issues with sleep have had these problems long before they were teens.  Unfortunately, the sleep patterns of teens are usually very set and it is hard for them to increase sleep.  Therefore, these issues with sleep can progress into their adulthood.

reality scoop- importance of sleep for teens
CC image via Flickr user Lucas Arrrrgh

 

Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation show surprising information on teens:

  • Teens need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night to function best during the day.  Only 15% of teens reported sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns and typically stay up late and sleep in late on weekends, which can damage the quality of their sleep patterns.
  • Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, or sleep apnea.

Here are a few things that can help teens to try and fit in a bit more sleep into their schedules:

  • Turn off all electronic devices before going to sleep Electronic screens emit a glow called “blue light” at a particular frequency that sends “a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps teens from feeling tired.
  • Stay away from caffeine and snacks before bedtime.  These can harmfully postpone sleep.
  • Relieve pressure by reducing daily activities.
  • Streamline morning schedule to allow for more sleep time.
  • Work on assignments more productively by taking breaks and cut work into smaller pieces.

Here are a few realistic young adult fiction books that focus on teens with sleep disorders or problems with sleep and how it affects their lives and the people around them.

Reality Scoop: Promoting Mental Wellness with YA Literature

There are no shortages of books for young adults that tackle mental illness; The Hub has focused on books for Mental Health Awareness Month and also written about the trend of suicide and depression in Young Adult literature in just the last year. But today for Reality Scoop, we’re focusing on characters in YA novels who develop coping mechanisms for dealing with depression and anxiety throughout the course of the story.

YALSA realistic fiction column

Fiction According to National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), about 20% of teens suffer from mental health issues and nearly 30% have depression before adulthood.  The impact on teens is more than just statistics, it’s the feelings and the emotions that they deal with that hurt the most.  Mental health problems just make things so much harder for teens.  It makes their home life, school and socializing much more difficult than it should be.  

Reality Scoop: Holiday Stress Relief

The holiday season is upon us and it can be a very stressful time for many teens and their families.  Some families may have financial problems and the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can heighten teens stress to an uncomfortable level.  Or they may have divorced parents and have split holiday plans. Worrying about where they will spend the holidays can actually put quite a strain on teens.12-28-09 ornaments148.jpg

It’s important to understand the amount of stress that teens are under during the holidays.  The majority of their usual stress centers around social issues like peer pressure, bullying and homework, and then there’s the money issues that arise when parents and caregivers don’t have enough to get through the holidays.  A recent survey done by the American Psychological Association showed that as many as 45% of teens reported that thy were under a lot of stress during the holidays.  Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of the parents did not even notice that their teens felt stressed.  Sadly, their stress does affect the quality of their lives as it was noted that 42% of teens complained of headaches, 49% mentioned difficulty sleeping, and 39% expressed that they have issues with eating properly.

Reality Scoop: Domestic Violence in YA Fiction

I love realistic fiction!

It’s true, my taste in reading YA literature seems to bounce around a lot from fantasy to horror to science fiction, but somehow I always end up back with realistic fiction. I think that realistic fiction is a very important genre for teens to have access to. Many of the topics that are covered in these books are serious and affect teens their daily lives. I have worked with teens in a community where poverty is high and the stress is even higher and have seen how reading realistic fiction can make a difference in their lives.

I also think it’s important to be able to recommend realistic fiction books to teens so they can experience real life situations that are fictional as sort of an experimental look-see so to speak. I know for me, when I read realistic fiction it makes me feel like I am going through the experiences with the characters. When teens read realistic fiction they might go through the highs and lows, the good and the bad, while sampling small glimpses of the deeper and darker experiences that tend to stay with us throughout most of our lives. This is a safer way of experiencing without really having to bear the drama or angst themselves. It’s like trying something on, but then putting it back on the shelf when you are done. Likewise, teens who have had troubling experience can see that they are not alone, and teens who haven’t dealt with these issues can develop empathy for those who have.

reality scoop

Many topics come to my mind regarding realistic fiction, so each month I will recommend a list of books that explore the common themes that reflect life changing events for teens. Realistic fiction can also melt over into mysteries, thrillers, adventures, yet they always stay rooted in reality.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness (DVAM), this month’s focus will be on various ranges of violent behavior that can occur between teens and their family members or partners. Abusive behavior can happen in all types of families and is present in all cultures and economic classes.