Handle Puberty Like A Champ For Children With Autism

May 25, 2018

If you have a child with autism, as you know, this is a lifelong condition in which you have to help see through every stage of life with them — including puberty. Puberty is a developmental stage of life that we all want to skip because things can get weird and awkward as we begin to explore the changes in our bodies, in addition to romantic and sexual urges. Kids begin to filter what’s cool and what’s not as they crave the independence of an adult, yet are not! Puberty is difficult for everyone, but this stage can be particularly challenging for a child with autism.


At Pinnacle Autism Therapy, ABA therapy begins in the earliest stages of life but we continue to work with them throughout their lives, including puberty. We know first hand how hard coping with puberty can be with both the child and parent or caregiver alike, so follow along in today’s post as we navigate the intricacies of puberty for a child with autism. 

How to Handle Changing Bodies


In puberty, bodies change — boys voices lower and their penis grows larger, and in girls, their breasts grow larger and they begin menstruating. In both girls and boys, they grow armpit and pubic hair and tend to get acne. Without fair warning, experiencing these changes can be confusing and alarming, especially for children with autism. One of the best things you can do as a parent or caregiver is communicate with your child about the changes that will occur. In girls, you can explain feminine hygiene products, what they are, and how to use them. It’s important to find material that they can relate to or understand, so try using cartoons or pictures to explain these changes.


Explore the Autism Speaks Puberty Guide here.   https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/find-resources-programs/autism-treatment-network/tools-you-can-use/atn-air-p-puberty-adolescence-resource   


Research is also finding that with the onset of puberty, those with autism may experience new or increased amounts of seizures. If you see this happening in your child, consider speaking to a specialist about treatment options.


How to Handle Sexual and Romantic Feelings


In puberty, sexual urges and romantic feelings begin to manifest. This can cause increased anxiety in your childif they’re dealing with sensory issues, as these new sensations may feel like they came out of nowhere and they don’t have the coping methods.


With these sexual urges, be prepared that your child may begin to masturbate, which is a healthy and normal part of development; however, they may not have the social awareness to know when it is appropriate and when it’s not. This is where the parenting part can get tough — have a conversation with your child about the topic and address the issue. If you find this difficult, talk with a therapist to start the conversation.


How to Handle Socioemotional Issues


Hormones are the culprit in this sensitive time, and they are running wild! You may find your child being happy one moment, and then anxious and crying the next. To make matters more difficult, if your child is in a mainstream classroom, the other kids may subject them to teasing and bullying from classmates. Puberty is the time when your child’s self-esteem may decline, so finding ways to boost self-confidence is crucial. Talk with a therapist to help them deal with these feelings and work with the school to put together an action plan for strategies that will assist your child through this time.


Puberty happens to everyone and is especially confusing and trying to those with autism. If your child is close this stage, begin the conversation sooner rather than later. Handle bodily changes, sexual and romantic feelings, and socioemotional issues with communication and get help from a therapist.


Puberty is a trying time, but you and your child will get through it!


Lean on us as a resource at Pinnacle Autism Therapy for puberty information and support. Schedule a meet and greet with us or give us a call for more information!     



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