Every parent at some point has to face the realization that their little John or Suzie is growing up. That there will be a time that comes when explaining “the birds and the birds” has to be done -aka puberty. Especially in this fast paced and sexually explict world that we are in with the internet, tv, movies, music, magazines, and the knowledge that kids have at a much younger age.
As hard as it is to explain to a neurotypical child about puberty, parents of children with special needs face a much harder time depending on the level of the child both mentally and physically.
I often see other parents on facebook asking for advice on this same subject. I once was one of those parents myself.
This is mainly about the experiences I have had with my daughter. There are links below to provide additional information for both girls and boys.
In the past, 4 years I have had to experience K going through puberty and all that comes with it. I was terrified of the thought of K going through puberty. I was in denial and really did not want to think about the inevitable.
But as nature will always have its way, K started getting arm pit hair, pubic hair, leg hair, and developing breasts.
Denial was not an option…
With the help of her school and having certian things written in her IEP, at the age of 8, we started to explain puberty to K:
- Practice with wearing pads at home and in school for 4 days out of the month (this was written into her IEP)
- Used social stories with pictures to explain the changes both at home and school
- The school had a “Period Club” for all the girls around 9 years to explain the changes.
- Having K try different types of pafs to find the one she prefers.
This was done over the course of 2 years. K was one of the girls who got their period early. She was 1o. She dealt with it ok. There was an increase in aggressive behavior which resulted in having K placed on birth control to help with the mood swings. K was 11. ***The treatment of birth control may not be right for every girl***
K’s independent hygiene skills and fine motor skills still need a lot of assistance. She needs help removing the pads and placing new ones on. Also with disposal of the pads. K prefers the Always ultra thin foam pads. She needs help with shaving her arm pits. Also K needs to be monitored in the shower and may need help washing her hair and body. K needs help brushing her teeth correctly.
Now after reading – there are things I wish I could have done differently. And some things that I will try to include going foward with K:
- The idea of using the brown lunch bags with the new pad inside. This will help her have a place to dispose of the used pad where ever she may be.
- The idea of having a special set of underwear for K. This underware will have an outline of where the pad be placed. So this way K will know the proper placement for the pad.
- The idea of using a timer to have check the pad every 2 hours. So this way she can change it herself and get use to checking it on a regular basis. (I would check it when she went to the bathroom or every few hours)
- Inforce all of the above once a month, every month regardless if she has her period or not. Again to also get K use to doing this.
Helpful websites and blogs for girls:
- How to help girls with Autism through puberty (Provides information on reading materials and helpful hints to teach your daughter).
- Raising childern with Autism: Periods (This has great ideas for a social story to help explain the menstruation).
- Puberty in Girls: Physical Changes and Menstruation (Lots of great tips)
Helpful websites and blogs for both boys and girls:
- Teens with ASD and puberty
- Children with autism spectrum disorder: getting ready for puberty
- How To Discuss Puberty with Your Child who has Special Needs
Helpful websites and blogs regarding boys: