This article is mommy approved by Miriam Slozberg, mother of two.
When children, in general, reach the pre-teen stages from age 9 to 11, they must be prepared for how their bodies will soon be going through changes. This is why sex education is available for kids from grades 4 to 6, so they will learn about how they will be going through puberty in the not too distant future.
However, when it comes to teaching a child with autism about puberty, a lot more preparation must be done.
It is a known fact that people with autism must be told ahead of time what to expect. Otherwise, unexpected changes will trigger anxiety and can cause them to have meltdowns. Additionally, these individuals are literal thinkers.
This is why it is essential to be careful with how puberty is presented to children with autism. However, they can manage the bodily changes by following some simple steps to explain puberty to an autistic child.
Now, the focus will be on teaching autistic boys about puberty. The ideal age to start preparing them is around ten (for girls, it would be slightly sooner). Below are tips on preparing your son or boys in general for what he must expect in the not too distant future.
Explain To Autistic Boys In Detail How Their Bodies Will Go Through Changes
Anytime you talk about puberty to autistic boys, it is important to tell them everything that they will expect to happen. Otherwise, they will become agitated if a change occurs that they are unprepared for. Make it known to them that they will grow and get taller.
Prepare them for the fact that they will get pimples on their face and other body parts. Tell them that their privates will be bigger, explain erections to them, and reassure them that when they experience those, that will be normal.
Additionally, you will want to prepare them because their voices will become deeper. Do not tell them their voices will break; they will take that term literally. Teach them as well as how they will sweat more often and to expect to have sweat coming from their armpits.
Facial hair is also important to talk about as these kids need to know that they will have hair growing on their faces.
Show Boys Pictures Of Teenagers Going Through Puberty And Of Men
It is always important to remember that autistic people are visual learners and thinkers. It is important to prepare them for puberty, as explained in the first point. However, it is also advisable to show these boys pictures of teenage boys that have pimples and facial hair while telling them they will have the same thing happening to their bodies.
It is also a good idea to show them pictures of grown men, showing them that they will grow up. Explain to them that men were boys like they were at one time, which may also help them realize that going through puberty is normal.
You can find teenage boys’ and men’s pictures in magazines or Google images. The ideal photos to show these boys are before and after pictures of boys becoming men.
Tell Them How They Will Feel
Explain to boys with autism that they will feel different emotions, and be specific with the type of feelings they will have. Prepare them for the fact that they may feel happy one minute, angry the next minute, and sad after that.
Prepare them so that they may begin to like girls (or they may like other boys, which are also important to prepare them with, especially if they are showing signs of being gay) and make it clear to them that they must allow them to have their space.
The concern with boys on the autism spectrum is that they struggle with their social development, and if they develop crushes, they may act on impulse and misbehave. However, when the boy starts to show interest in a girl, at that point, more tips can be discussed on dating and autism.
Teaching boys the importance of privacy is also important because they will feel as if they want to touch themselves. Prepare them for this fact as well, and when they do, teach them about masturbation and how it is only appropriate to do it in their bedrooms with the door closed or in bathrooms.
Tell them that touching themselves in public places such as schools, malls, or restaurants is never appropriate.
Personal Hygiene Must Be Taught
Explain to the child that because of their bodies going through changes, they will sweat more which means they will need to wash themselves more often. Teach them the importance of using deodorants; if the child has sensory issues regarding smell, there are plenty of good-quality unscented deodorants.
Use Social Stories On Boys Going Through Puberty
The best way to teach boys on the autism spectrum about what to expect when they go through puberty is by using social stories that will show them step by step how their bodies will change. The social stories will also show them how to wash and use deodorant.
There are also masturbation social stories that are worth using. Parents and caregivers uncomfortable with teaching their boys on the autism spectrum about puberty will also find that using social stories to show them how puberty will affect them much easier.
Some free social stories for this purpose will be in the reference section.
Parents are overwhelmed by the idea that their sons with autism will go through puberty the same way typical boys do. However, preparing them properly by explaining them in detail while showing pictures of growing boys and men and using social stories will help.
It is also a good idea for parents and caregivers to talk to pediatricians and therapists for other tips when preparing their sons for puberty, especially if they are non-verbal and on the more severe spectrum.
Miriam Slozberg is a Canadian author, blogger, and mom to 2 kids. One had combined autism and ADHD. After years of trialing different forms of therapy, she learned how to best support her son. She writes for publications such as BabyGaga.com. She also is a mental health advocate as she lives with ADHD and has experienced depression.