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Autism and Puberty


“While little is known about the interaction of ASC and aging, it is generally accepted that adults with ASC 1) tend to be fairly poor self reporters when it comes to health issues, and 2) as a group tend to be fairly sedentary. As such, concerns related to the long term health and wellness of adults with ASC should be at the forefront of any discussion of appropriate services.
–The Current State of Services for Adults with Autism,
prepared by Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D., Organization for Autism Research

I have two sons so can only really talk about puberty from a boys perspective in the sense of its effect on Ryan while also dealing with Autism and vice versa how his Autism has affected his dealing with puberty.

Puberty is a confusing time for any individual but for Ryan with speech and language difficulties the confusion can be more profound. He is not necessarily able to understand what is being said to him about the changes that he is experiencing, nor can he clearly verbalise his confusion, questions or how he is feeling to me, for me to be able to support him through the changes. 

Fortunately we have a very good school nurse who is very approachable and really understands how difficult this subject is for any child. She kindly gave me copies of the same materials/leaflets she has used with the children so the work I then did/am doing with Ryan, reinforces what he has been told already.

We have used the 'About you personal wellbeing schools programme'.

I started the conversation with him, there is simply no point in being remotely embarrassed about this subject, every single person goes through it and your child, regardless of their abilities or understanding is going to need your support. You need to know your facts so research if you are not sure (see the useful contacts page for further links) and be assertive (even if you are nervous). 

One day as he was showering - now that is a whole other story; Boys generally don't care much for personal hygiene but Ryan has even less clue or 'careness'; anyway I digress. I noticed he was changing.  I also knew he had already had a talk in year 6 at school so simply said to him "So Ryan I can see you have started puberty, are you able to tell me if you feel any different or do you have any questions?"

Now although Ryan’s understanding and communication skills have improved beyond belief, since he was first diagnosed, it is still NOT cool to talk about 'hairy winkies' in front of your mum. I wasn't put off though and reiterated what he was likely to be feeling and what other changes he could expect. 

As I have talked about previously I keep a diary of things that happen, need to remember or simply need to get off my chest. What follows now is a diary extract of an incident that I have put down to puberty.
Monday 3.2.14 (Ryan is 12) – Well what the **** just happened? Came up to bed at 9pm went in to wish Ryan good night to find him playing on his phone, as I opened the door to his room, he scrambled to drop his phone and pick up his pencil and attempt to look like he was doing his homework that he had told me he had done at 7pm. I shouted at him (rookie mistake) about his obsession with his phone and xbox. What ensued was a full blown meltdown that I haven’t seen for almost 2 years. He has smashed some of his room and told me he hates me. I have obviously walked away and tagged teamed Dadi Skilts who is now attempting to calm Ryan.  I am at an absolute loss, didn’t see this coming at all and have no idea how best to deal with it now. 
I was sat writing this and could hear Duncan talking to Ryan. It was heart-breaking to hear how hard Ryan is finding life at the moment (hormones & puberty I think).  I simply went into his room to find Dadi Skilts on the edge of the bed with Ryan, knees pulled up/legs bent with his head on his knees, crying gently. I just sat down next to him and hugged him (this was a massive risk as Ryan dislikes being touched and the very few hugs I have ever had have been initiated by him). It worked though I didn’t speak just sat there and he eventually stopped crying and even hugged me back.  We started to talk a little bit about nothing in particular and then he said he was tired, so I put him into bed. 

A very good article from a fellow blogger on puberty here


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