Children with autism sometimes require more time to adjust and comprehend changes in their life than typical developing children. If your child is adequately prepared for the physical changes that occur throughout puberty, he or she is less likely to be confused or worried that anything is wrong. Only you know your child best and will know how long it would take to prepare them (Raising Children Network, 2021).
This also depends on if your child has a behaviour or a habit that may not be appropriate for older children. For example, if your child is removing their clothes in public or at home, this would have to be changed before they hit puberty and they would need extra help in understanding why they can’t remove their clothes anymore (Raising Children Network, 2021).
Here is sample guide for when your child would hit puberty but note that they could either start earlier or later than the ages stated below (Raising Children Network, 2021):
10-11 years for girls
11-13 years for boys
Everybody goes through puberty where the body changes. The change for males is that they would have a deeper voice and their penis grows larger. For the females, they would start to get their periods and their breasts grow bigger. It is especially important to talk to your child before this happens so that they can anticipate these changes (Autism Speaks, n.d.).
During this period, they might experience sexual urges which is normal, but for children with autism with sensory issues, these new sensations could cause them anxiety. Also, they may start to masturbate, which is a common occurrence, but for a child with autism, they may lack social awareness and may not know when is an appropriate time and place to do so. This issue would need to be discussed with your child and if you are having trouble doing it then you can always get tips or help from your child’s therapist who would be happy to help (Autism Speaks, n.d.).
As your children grow and develop, it also becomes especially important for them to know about what physical boundaries they need to keep to, and how they can seek help should their boundaries be invaded against their will. Books can be useful resources in teaching this, such as ‘My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes” by pro familia.
Here are some tips that can be useful (Puberty and adolescence resource - autism speaks, n.d.):
Start early with teaching privacy
Model appropriate hygiene behaviour
Use the correct language for body parts and body functions
Start practicing early
The earlier you start the better the outcome will be.
Written by Jasvinder Kaur.
Autism in teens: Helping your child through puberty. Autism Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/autism-teens-helping-your-child-through-puberty
Preparing for puberty: Autistic children and teenagers. Raising Children Network. (2021, May 27). Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/development/physical-development/preparing-for-puberty-asd
Puberty and adolescence resource - autism speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/Puberty%20and%20Adolescence%20Resource.pdf