The middle years are a crucial stage in every child’s development. It is during this time that puberty begins and children experience a number of changes, both in their personal and social development. It is a time of mixed feelings for both the child and their care givers. Parents often experience a combination of pride and trepidation in relation to the inevitable changes that occur as their child begins developing into an adult. Some key changes that occur during the middle years include:
- Children undergo physical and hormonal changes as part of their early sexual development
- Children increasingly look to their peers to define their language, attitudes and self- image
- Children display an increased likelihood of impulsive and risk-taking behaviours
- Children often experience mood swings
- Children begin to seek greater independence and autonomy
- Increased cognitive demands and expectations of abstract thinking are placed on children
All these changes can challenge a child’s self-esteem and many children experience emotional insecurity in relation to their body image, self-worth and social relationships during the middle years.
“They are trying to develop an identity but also struggle with doubt about themselves and who they are or are to become…what they are about and where they are headed in life”.1
See “Key Areas of Difference” and “The middle years and autism” for more information about the particular characteristics and challenges experienced by many children with autism in the middle years. Practical strategies and useful resources are also included in these sections.
Brereton, A. Adolescence and Autism, Department of Education and Early Childhood Victoria, accessed 11 May, 2015 http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/programs/needs/asdfactsheet2.pdf↩