Our kids with autism spectrum disorder are growing up. Just like every other kid. In a way, that is definitely one thing you can expect to occur in your very busy life as a parent. And just like every other kid, puberty seems to pop up out of nowhere. I’m there with you – it seems like just yesterday my youngest brother Tanner, was running around in diapers acting out scenes from Dora the Explorer with me. And now he turned 18 last November!
Swiper, somehow swiped my perception of time from right under me.
These are 4 tips to think about either before your child reaches puberty, or if they are currently going through puberty, some things that may be helpful to navigate because it’s safe to say that it has been at least a minute since we were in our children’s shoes. Note: from this point forward, I’ll be using teen instead of child.
Be ready in the best way you can for your teen. I know some of these topics may not be the most comfortable but having this kind of conversation could open the door to your teen becoming more comfortable in sharing when things get challenging further down the road.
If you stay calm, explain things as much as you can (especially related to your own knowledge and beliefs) and come ready to listen, you are modeling the ways that your child can approach these topics with you. You know your teen best, so feel free to adapt these following strategies as needed.
PREPARE YOUR TEEN
As you may already know, it is incredibly helpful to prepare your teen for any upcoming changes or transitions. Especially if it relates to their body. The more you can do to prepare them for changes, it can make the world of a difference.
Here are some topics you will want to discuss:
Body part names and description: use formal names of body parts in order to avoid confusion. This is also a good idea if you want to be on the same page and use the same language with your teen. It’ll be helpful in the future as they learn more about themselves and their body over time and come to you for any questions. Also, make sure to distinguish between public vs. private body parts.
Body changes and development: your teen will benefit from a clear, detailed discussion about their body’s growth and development during puberty.
CREATE A HEALTHY HYGIENE ROUTINE
As puberty occurs, your teen’s hygiene routine will need to look different (of course, this varies person-to-person), but it would be the most helpful to start a hygiene routine as early as you can.
As your teen reaches adolescence and then adulthood, it’s never too early to practice self-advocacy skills. These are the skills you’ve used time and again for your teen, but since you aren’t’ with them all the time, they’ll need to start picking up on these skills too. These are the ways your teen can indicate what they want, how they want it, and why. But especially important are the ways your teen indicates what they do not want to others. I know this is a topic we don’t want to think about, but it is so very important that we don’t overlook this and end up becoming too overprotective. Every teen on the autism spectrum is different and will have different needs, so either way self-advocacy will ensure your child’s safety, privacy, and dignity are self-protected.
There it is! These are all ways to help prepare you and your teen with autism for puberty. They ensure ways to promote knowledge and understanding and hopefully best of all your teen’s acceptance of puberty, their body, to and to ease things during this time period.
You’ve got this!