Autism girls and boys become very much anxious and frightened when they reach puberty. This is a new level of their life to become an adult. The parents of the autism children have a very big role to play during this transition period of their children. They are to provide extra support to them in every step so that they can remain calm and quiet and handle the situation effectively and efficiently.
Puberty is the series of the physiological transformation of a child to turn him/her into a mature man/woman capable of reproduction. It is the time when they become sexually mature. During this time there are some physical changes in them, and some of them are visible from outside.
Puberty is the time when the brain starts producing hormones. These hormones travel to the testicles of the boys through the blood stream and give the signal of sperm production. On the other hand, the hormones of the girls travel to the ovaries and prepare her for pregnancy.
Generally, puberty in the girls comes at the age of 10-14 years and the boys at 12-16. But it varies sometimes. Like the girls may attain puberty even at 7 years age and the boys at 9 years. The puberty period lasts till all the changes are completed in the human body. Both the girls and boys grow rapidly at the beginning of the puberty and stop growing when puberty is completed.
Autism children are delayed in development in the every stage of life. But the puberty comes in their life at the age similar to the normal children and last for the similar period.
In this article, I am going to explain the different changes of the girls and boys during puberty and the guide for the parents to support their children during puberty.
Symptoms of Puberty
There are some major changes occur in the body of the girls which are as follows:
The whole body gets curvier
The Skin gets oilier
Breasts start to develop
Armpit and pubic hairs grow
Sometimes acne grows
Hip bones become wider
Muscles get bigger and stronger
Menstruation starts (sometimes there might be some white discharge before starting the actual menstruation)
The boys have following changes during puberty:
The Skin gets oilier
Facial and armpit hairs grow
Shoulder gets wider
Pubic hairs grow
Penis and testicles get longer
Muscles get bigger and stronger
The voice changes
Sometimes grows acne.
Boys might have wet dreams.
Generally, the autism children do not like to accept any change in their life. They become anxious and frightened when these changes occur in their body, and they cannot accept it due to their natural instinct. So, puberty is a very challenging stage of human development for the autistic children, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. As such, the parents have the major responsibility to support them actively at this stage of their life.
How to Support autism girls and boys
The girls and boys might have lots of questions in their mind about these new changes in their body during puberty. So, parents need to have necessary preparation to handle their girls/boys at this time. As the children are not capable of handling the new situations of the puberty, the parents are to support them very actively.
They are to start counseling their children on different aspects of puberty well ahead of its starting. They should request the teachers/caregivers to brief the autism children on the matter. As a result, they will be mentally prepared to accept the changes.
If the autism girls and boys are non-verbal, the responsibility of the parents is much more. You may show your photograph of the different stages of your life to them to make them understand about human growth and puberty. You may also narrate the story of your puberty time which will help them to understand puberty.
There are instances when the autism boys and girls reach the puberty, they try to tear the under-arm and pubic hair and sometimes make them injured to bleeding as they feel irritating of those extra hairs. These are the cases when the parents would stand beside them and support them. They are to be motivated not to tear those rather teach them to clean those in a proper manner.
The parents are to teach their autistic children how to shave those hairs regularly. Initially, the parents are to teach them how to do it. Then they are to be told to do it under the guidance of the parents. Finally, they are to be told to do it on their own and practice it regularly. If those are not shaved regularly, there might be infections.
Actually, those are to be taught like the teaching of brushing the teeth, toilet training, combing the hair etc. If require, teach them through picture books, cartoons etc. The children can be given some books on puberty to read if s/he is capable of reading and learning.
We have taught many things to our son Ferdous Mahi in the above-mentioned ways during his puberty. We taught him how to brush the teeth and how to use the toilet from the very beginning of his childhood and taught him how to shave the beard and clean the armpit and pubic hairs during puberty. Now he can look after all his personal hygiene on his own. Fortunately, he did not grow any sense of sexuality as yet.
Additional points on puberty
The parents are to teach their daughters not to be on the bare body once the breasts have grown larger. Definitely, they might not care for it, but the mother needs to be very careful so that she cannot go out of the home without any clothes over the body.
Try to make them understand that the body belongs to her and inform her who can see it and who can touch her body. Tell her that nobody is allowed to touch or see her body except her mother, caregiver, and the doctor.
If she is dependent on others for her basic needs, teach her who all are the safe people for her. The safe people might be the doctor who is responsible for her treatment and the caregiver who is responsible for her toileting, bathing, and dressing.
I know a family where the autism boy used to embrace any girl/women comes in their home. It was a matter of embarrassment for the parents. One day he embraced his mother. The next day the parents sent him in the home. Actually, the boy could not control his excitement due to puberty.
The parents are to take proper care of the different changes in their autism boys. They are to understand their mental changes and act accordingly. If it is found that your autism boy is out of control due to sexual reason, then take him to the toilet and make his ejaculation.
If your autism boy understands about the sexuality and can manage a family, get him married. This will help to avoid any social nuisance.
Handling menstruation of autism girls during puberty
The menstruation is a very difficult situation to handle during puberty of your autism daughter. The menstruation of the girls generally starts after 1 or 2 years of the beginning of the puberty. So, prepare your autistic girl mentally before starting the first period. Tell her that it is normal for everybody, so accept it normally.
Generally, the menstruation cycle of the daughter follows the mother’s one. The mother would tell her daughter that it is a 7 day’s matter and it comes after every 28 days. Make a calendar to let her know when it comes next. It will reduce her anxiety and fear.
Teach her how to put on the pads or tampons during menstruation. Practice her wearing the pads before menstruation starts. If require put on a pad yourself in front of her to teach her practically. Dolls can also be used for demonstration purpose. Then tell her to put on another pad under your guidance. Initially, she may not be comfortable with the pad and may open it in your absence. Watch it closely.
Now a day, you will get some pads in the market which shows details description of its use including some pictures on how to use it. These are also an easy way to teach them how to use the pads. Teach her how to dispose of the pads. Otherwise, she might through it here and there and create an odd situation.
Change her pad before it is fully wet. Since it is very difficult to understand when it is fully wet, so make a routine and change it in the morning after she gets up from the bed, at lunchtime, in the evening and before going to the bed.
Or else, you can make a time table like changing the pad every after 3 or 4 hours as per requirement. After 2/3 cycles of her periods, you will be able to understand when to change it. Follow it rigidly, so that your autism girl does not feel uncomfortable.
If the pads need to be changed at the school, inform the teacher so that she can take care of her. It is better not to stop her going to the school rather the teacher should be informed about her period so that the teacher can take her proper care.
Generally, a girl feels sleepy after lunch during and before her period. Give her a chance to sleep at the day time. The women experience food craving during the period and one week before period. It may also happen with your daughter. If your daughter is non-verbal, give her enough food on your own.
Increase protein foods in her diet to stabilize her blood sugar as the blood sugar is decreased during menstruation. They also like any food with sugar or salt.
Some girls might have Pre-Menstrual-Syndrome (PMS) for which they feel tired, tense, weepy, irritated, upset, headache, or bloated before and after starting the menstruation. Pay extra attention to your autism girls especially if they are non-verbal.
Your daughter might feel cramp or pain at the belly during her period. If require give her some pain killer/pain reliever after consulting the gynecologists.
Dress-up her with loose clothes during ministration period so that she feels comfortable.
At the beginning of her first period set up a regular appointment to the gynecologist for your daughter.
Protecting autism girls during puberty and beyond
Experiencing puberty means being mature in all respect to become a mother. Since your daughter is an autistic baby, special care to be taken to protect her from any sexual harassment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls suffer from sexual abuse before the age of 18 years. These are the cases which are disclosed and counted, but there are lots of incidents which remain behind the veil.
The mothers of the autistic girls have the full-time responsibility to look after their daughter and protect her from any accidental sexual abuse or sexual harassment. I have already mentioned that a huge percentage of girls are abused before their 18 years age. Since they do not understand its good/bad and some of them cannot speak, there are some people who take the chance and abuse them or harass them.
Though it is the statistics of developed countries, it is never less in the developing countries. We do not have any system to bring out any statistics and the families are also very conservatives, so many cases remain unnoticed.
Like the normal women, autism girls also feel sexually aroused during puberty. But guide them so that they are not indulged in any immoral activities with emotion.
Puberty is a very critical period for the autism girls and the boys. The parents have very important role to play during puberty of their children. They are to guide them and teach them at the different stages of puberty. There is no shame in teaching your girls and boys how to handle the different situation of her puberty. It is a natural phenomenon for every man and woman.
Since your autism girls have the limitation of learning the things in an easy way, you have to take proper care of her. Moreover, she has the problem of protecting her, so you are to be visible to monitor your teenage girls each and every moment. The responsibility of the parents of protecting their autism girls and boys start at the puberty but it continues beyond it.
If they are not self-dependent the parents are to look after their safety till death. So, all out effort must be made to support them to become self-dependent.
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