The Mighty Logo

12 Ways My Son With Autism Is Both Similar and Different From Other Teenagers

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

My son Tommy has autism. He’s 14. I’ve noticed that he’s “different” from a lot of other kids his age, but there are also plenty of similarities as well.

1. Teenagers have a smell about them. Whether it’s body odor or too much cologne, some sort of scent is usually wafting from their bodies.

2. I don’t have to worry about my son sneaking out at night. He’s really big on rules. If I told him to be in by 10 p.m., he’ll be back by 10 p.m.

3. His moods can be all over the place like any teen. One minute he’ll be smiling. The next he’ll be glaring at me.

4. He won’t risk smoking. Or getting drunk. He cannot believe anyone would do these things. “Don’t they know their lungs will turn black? Why would anyone want to get drunk?” He’s just as appalled over drugs.

5. He spends hours on video games like many teenagers. When he emerges from his room, we sometimes start clapping. “You exist!” I’ll sometimes shout.

6. He might not be driving when he’s 16. He can panic when he gets overwhelmed, so he might need more time to cope with these feelings before he gets behind the wheel.

7. I’m not sure when he’ll have a girlfriend. He still struggles with understanding different emotions. I have faith there is a girl out there for him, though.

8. He’s not interested in sports. He never has been. He tried track in fifth grade and wasn’t a fan. He tries hard, but playing catch with him is tricky as he can have difficulty catching the ball or throwing it. He’ll try to be polite if someone in the family offers, but you can tell he’s not really enjoying himself. Football has always bored him.

boy wearing gray t-shirt and smiling
Amber’s son, Tommy.

9. He probably won’t be going to any school dances. There’s one coming up and I asked if he wanted to go. He was like, “No, thank you.”

10. He doesn’t walk around with earbuds in his ears all the time. He cannot stand things in his ears and he doesn’t care to listen to music at all hours of the day.

11. He eats like most teenagers. He never seems to be full. I once watched as he ate a footlong sub from Subway in five minutes. And he was still hungry. However, his diet isn’t like a lot of teenagers’: He doesn’t like soda. It’s too “spicy” for him. He doesn’t like chewy candy. He doesn’t like if you put cheese on his burger. He’d live on rolls if I allowed it.

12. He hates wearing shorts. He’s noticed that a lot of boys his age wear shorts, even if it’s freezing. He doesn’t comprehend this. If it’s below 72 degrees, he must be in a long-sleeved shirt. He also hates wearing flip-flops. Even if we’re going to the pool, he prefers to be in socks and shoes. When we go to the beach I can get him in flip-flops but only because he can’t stand the sand stuck in the socks.

Honestly, I’m happy he might not ever be like other teenagers. He is who he is.

He’s Tommy.

Follow this journey on Airing My Laundry.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: March 8, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home