Puberty is a time of when many changes occurs for all children, but it can be especially challenging for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a parent or caregiver of a child with ASD, there are several things you can do to help prepare your child for the physical and emotional changes that come with puberty.
Start early: It’s important to start talking to your child about puberty before the changes begin. Use age-appropriate language and visuals to help your child understand what to expect.
Use social stories: Social stories are a tool used to teach children with ASD about social situations. Use social stories to help your child understand what changes to expect during puberty and how to manage those changes.
Discuss personal hygiene: Personal hygiene is an important part of puberty. Teach your child about hygiene routines, such as bathing, brushing teeth, and using deodorant.
Explain changes in emotions: Puberty can bring a range of emotions, which can be especially challenging for children with ASD. Teach your child to recognize and manage their emotions, such as anger or anxiety, and provide coping strategies.
Talk about relationships: As your child enters puberty, they may begin to have romantic feelings. Discuss appropriate behavior with your child and teach them about boundaries and consent.
Practice social skills: Puberty is also a time when social skills become more important. Practice social skills with your child, such as taking turns, reading social cues, and engaging in conversation.
Consider therapy: Therapy can be a helpful resource for children with ASD during puberty. A therapist can provide support and guidance on managing the emotional and physical changes of puberty.
Tricky questions about puberty from autistic children
Here are some general guidance on how to answer tricky questions about puberty from autistic children:
Be honest and straightforward: It’s important to answer questions honestly and directly, using clear and concise language. Avoid using metaphors or euphemisms that may confuse or mislead your child.
Use visuals and social stories: Visual aids and social stories can be helpful tools for teaching children with ASD about puberty. Use pictures, diagrams, and social stories to help your child understand the changes that occur during puberty.
Break down information into smaller parts: Children with ASD may struggle with processing large amounts of information. Break down information into smaller parts and provide opportunities for your child to ask questions and clarify any confusion.
Focus on the specific question: Children with ASD may ask questions that seem unrelated to puberty or that are difficult to answer. Focus on the specific question and provide a clear and concise response.
Validate feelings and concerns: Puberty can be an emotional time for children with ASD. Validate your child’s feelings and concerns and provide support and reassurance as needed.
Use role-playing and practice scenarios: Role-playing and practice scenarios can be helpful tools for teaching social skills and appropriate behavior during puberty. Practice social situations with your child, such as asking someone on a date or dealing with a disagreement with a friend.
What to say about puberty to autistic children
When discussing puberty with autistic children, it’s important to use clear and direct language and provide visual aids and social stories to help them understand the changes that occur during this time. Here are key points to cover:
Explain the physical changes: It’s important to explain the physical changes that occur during puberty, such as hair growth, voice changes, and the development of breasts or testicles.
Discuss hygiene: Talk about the importance of hygiene during puberty, including showering, brushing teeth, and using deodorant.
Address emotions: Puberty can bring a range of emotions, which can be especially challenging for children with autism. Discuss common emotions that may arise, such as mood swings, anxiety, or depression, and provide strategies for managing them.
Discuss relationships: As your child enters puberty, they may begin to have romantic feelings. Discuss appropriate behavior with your child and teach them about boundaries and consent.
Address social skills: Puberty is also a time when social skills become more important. Discuss social skills with your child, such as taking turns, reading social cues, and engaging in conversation.
Reassure your child: Explain that puberty is a natural part of growing up, and that everyone goes through it. Reassure your child that they can talk to you or a trusted adult about any questions or concerns they may have.
In conclusion, preparing your child with ASD for puberty can be challenging, but it’s an important step in helping them navigate this time of change and growth. By starting early, using social stories, discussing personal hygiene, explaining changes in emotions, talking about relationships, practicing social skills, and considering therapy, you can help your child transition through puberty with greater ease and confidence. Remember, every child is unique, so be sure to tailor your approach to your child’s specific needs and strengths.