Got tweens/teens? We’re trying a new advice column here at Alpha Mom to address your questions for the older-kid crowd. We hope you enjoy! And if you have a question to submit, hit me up at alphamomteens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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S writes:

I think my 14-year-old may be autistic, and his counselor agrees. He is a freshman in high school, he gets mostly As, some Bs, and no teacher has ever mentioned it, but he struggles socially (not that he really realizes that). He is sensitive to tastes and textures, small talk seems to elude him, he will come up and interrupt a conversation and go completely to a different topic and never realize that can be rude. There are so many examples. His 5th grade teacher told me once he’s on a different plane than the other kids and she meant it as in his giftedness, but I think there’s more to it. My question is, is there any point in having him formally tested? My husband says no, why put a label on him when he’s doing just fine, which I do see and his counselor agrees, but sometimes I wonder if his lack of organization, his difficulty in “catching” everything a teacher says (like when to turn in an assignment) and other things might be helped with a diagnosis? I’m wondering about your thoughts.

Oh, I have lots of thoughts about this. I feel like we talk about it quite a bit, here, but I’m always happy to revisit.

My opinion is that there are two schools of thought when it comes to kids and special needs: one camp believes Labels Are Bad And/Or Limiting, and the other believes that knowledge is power, no matter what. I fall into the second group; I believe labels are only bad or limiting when they are allowed to be viewed as a detriment instead of as useful information. This is a general philosophy of mine, extending to all sorts of things, but I feel especially passionate about it when it comes to quirky kids, and I’ll tell you why. Read More