This article is mommy approved by Miriam Slozberg, mother of two.
When children, in general, hit the pre-teen stages which is from age 9 to 11, they must be prepared about 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, there is a lot more preparation that 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 very careful with how puberty is presented to children with autism. However, by following some simple steps on how to explain puberty to an autistic child, he or she will be able to manage the bodily changes.
Now, the focus will be on teaching autistic boys about puberty. The ideal age to start preparing them is around 10 years old (for girls, it would be slightly sooner) Below are tips on how to prepare your son or boys in general on 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, if a change happens that they are not prepared for, they will become very upset. 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 parts of the body. Tell them as well that their privates will be bigger and explain erections to them, and reassure them that when they experience those, that will be normal.
Additionally, you will want to prepare them for the fact that their voices will become deeper. Do not tell them that their voices will break as 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 the way it was 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 which will show them that they too will grow up. Explain to them as well that at one time men were boys like they are which may also help them realize that going through puberty is normal. You can find pictures of teenage boys and men in magazines or through Google images. The ideal types of images to find 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 as well 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 behave inappropriately. However, when the boy starts to show interest in a girl, at that point, more tips can be discussed on dating and autism.
It is also important to teach boys the importance of privacy because they will also feel as if they will 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 bathrooms. Tell them that it is never appropriate to touch themselves in public places such as at school, at malls, or restaurants.
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 deodorant, and if the child has sensory issues in regards to 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 how to use deodorant. There are also masturbation social stories that are worth using. Parents and caregivers that are 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 as well. There are some free social stories for this purpose which will be in the reference section.
Parents are overwhelmed about the idea that their sons with autism will go through puberty the same way typical boys do. However, preparing them properly by explaining to them in detail while showing pictures of growing boys and men in addition to 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 it comes to preparing their sons for puberty. Especially if they are non-verbal and on the more severe end of the 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 on publications such as BabyGaga.com. She also is a mental health advocate as she lives with ADHD and has experienced depression.