Parent of 10-yr-old daughter explains puberty

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Puberty

Dear Sylvia,
My daughter is 10 and I am already worrying about puberty and especially the onset of her menstrual cycle. How can we prepare? She doesn’t really tell us when she gets hurt and she is already unimpressed with showering, tooth-brushing and other hygiene routines. –Scared for Her

Dear Scared,
This is a very common concern, and I’m really glad you wrote in. Many kids (with and without autism) are confused and unprepared for puberty. It’s great that you want to help your daughter be ready. Here are some things to try:
1. Get this book: Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum for Young People with Autism
2. Read this free HANDOUT FROM THE AUTISM SOCIETY OF AMERICA
3. Use the written explanations in the book to help explain about puberty and periods to your daughter. Set a time each week, or each day to work through the book, and put it on your daughters schedule.
4. Write down an action plan for you and your daughter for the first time she notices her period. Make sure to include specific step by step instructions such as ‘wipe, get dressed, and tell the adult who is helping you (Mom, staff person, teacher, etc)’. Also mention that she will not be in trouble.
5. Continue to practice the hygiene routines you already have in place, and do not be afraid to add new standards early (such as wearing deodorant daily). Stick to your guns about your hygiene routines so they become second nature. It will not get easier to fight those battles during puberty.

You can use your established weekly or daily check-in’s about puberty to move into speaking about sexuality issues as she gets older. I hope this helps! Please email me with follow-up questions if you have them.

–Sylvia

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