Preparing our Special Needs Children for Adolescence and Preparing Nigeria to Accommodate Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By the WowDivas Autism Initiative.

More and more of our children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are hitting puberty and becoming young adults. This is a major concern for parents because though inevitable, one never really knows how ones child will be affected by puberty.

Puberty is actually spearheaded by the brain. Generally for boys the onset of puberty brings with it spontaneous erections, masturbating, facial hair while for girls; periods and the development of breasts are the main issues.

 For kids with ASD hormone surges may also cause increased self-injurious behavior. Consider creating a safe place for them to go work out their outbursts, if they don’t have one already. Their bedroom is the obvious place, but if they share a room with a sibling, then they may need a private place.

Ideally all children need to know a few things to keep them safe when it comes to sexuality. Some children may not fully understand what is happening to them or the urges they are having, Parents need to teach them and explain the basics.
• Anatomy – use real terms (not peepee or flower)
• Appropriate behavior – don’t expose yourself in public places
• Safety – don’t let people touch your privates or touch other people’s privates; always tell mom/dad if it happens

For girls, breast changes and hair growth start usually between ages 7-14 with menses starting a few years after the physical changes. How you prepare your daughter will depend on her functioning level.

• Buy her a training bra so that she starts getting used to having to wear one, many months in advance.
• Have her begin wearing a mini-pad a few months in advance to get used to the feeling of wearing a pad.

• When a girl starts menses, the first few periods are irregular but will normalize to approximately every 28 days. Use a calendar to show when her period SHOULD be coming by marking those days.
• Use a visual schedule to show times during the day that she needs to change her pad and bathe.
• Use a social story about blood coming out of their vagina and flowing between her legs, and what she should do about it (tell a teacher, use the “show period” PECS card, etc.) and how we change pads in the bathroom and bathe every day (or more often) during this 5-6 day time and that her tummy may hurt those days. It’s important not to make the story sound too scary or painful; otherwise it may create OCD about it.
• Buy a dozen pair of light-colored underwear and mark on them with a sharpie where the pad should go and teach your child how to change the pad and dispose of the old (wrapped and in the trash).

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