…so let’s talk about girl stuff.
Let’s start with the obvious – little girls grow up to be big girls! What is not so obvious though is how to support our girls on the spectrum as they approach and hit puberty.
Autistic girls may need more support and preparation for all the changes that come with growing up. Not only is change hard but the hormones raging around can manifest in different ways, particularly behaviourally. This can be very confusing and unsettling so an increase in anxiety around puberty is not uncommon. Anecdotally girls on the spectrum are more likely to reach puberty at a younger age too, so being prepared is key.
You know your daughter best so you will know what approach will work best for her, but generally I’d say making the information available to her in a calm, neutral way is important so that surprises don’t happen. I think a lack of preparation is generally more traumatic than any potential anxiety in knowing about what is to come. I also suggest non ambiguous language when discussing anything connected to puberty. Use factual words like ‘period’ rather than euphemisms or slang like ‘Aunt flow’.
If you are at a loss and worried about how to support your daughter as she approaches puberty here are a few ideas:
Remember our girls usually like facts so this is why I suggest books as a starting point. I don’t think you can ever be too young to start having knowledge, in age (or cognitive) appropriate ways, about what growing up will entail for you and your body. That is why I believe having books around that your daughter can dip in and out of at her own pace is important. The visual, and demand free aspect of looking at a book is often easier than the demands and intense emotions (eg embarrassment, confusion) associated with a personal chat with you.
There are a huge number of books out there to help, suited to all ages, so search around. Your local library will also have books like;
A book I recommend specifically aimed at girls on the spectrum is;
As girls’ bodies change, the need for different sorts of underwear can bring its own challenge. The feeling of a bra can be insufferable for sensory sensitive people.
Seam free underwear is widely available now and starting with vests, then crop tops/sports bras may help a transition to bras. Build up wearing them for twenty minutes initially, or only overnight, or only during sports, and work her way up to longer.
Remember though that many adults don’t wear bras so ‘pick your battles’.
If her breasts are small and it causes more aggro to try and wear one, is it worth fighting over? As her breasts become larger and/or she takes part in sporting activities it may be more important to find an option that works for her. Again be led by her, and seam free may be a good starting place.
Most supermarkets and many high street clothing stores stock a range of seam free/seamless underwear and it is widely available on line too.
and I know a few who would particularly like this zebra print from Marks and Spencer😊
The biggest change is of course when periods start.
Everyone reacts differently but on the whole, forewarned is forearmed.
The sight of blood can evoke an extreme stress reaction but preparation can ease the trauma. Others will take it entirely in their stride. Either way she will take her lead from you, so calm positivity rather than panic, pity or dread is the way forward!
Having rehearsals with pads is a good idea to get her used to the feeling. Practice showing exactly how to put a pad in her pants. Details like when, how, why, how often and what exactly to do are important. Clear conversation about how to keep clean is also important.
You can’t let any embarrassment cloud any instructions.
Being open regards to your own periods, if relevant, is also helpful.
Having relevant products in the house from early on is important too to get her used to seeing them, handling them and having them.
‘Sanpro’ companies do specific teen ranges and the little starter pack from Lil-lets is the ideal introduction;
Many sensory sensitive girls don’t tolerate disposable pads but there are alternatives available to try like reusable pads (and depending on age and flow; cups and period knickers).
There are a huge number of companies out there with their own variation so look for what matters to you, be it fabric/pattern/environment/supporting a small producer etc.
Some suggestions are;
(*disclaimer – these are not recommendations as I do not have first-hand experience of these products)
There are also websites/YouTube channels dedicated to periods and becoming a teen;
Encourage tracking from day one. Teach her to log her period days in a diary/calendar so she can identify a pattern. This will help manage any potential anxiety especially once a pattern presents itself in terms of regularity.
A diary will suffice but there are apps out there designed for the purpose. Word of warning – just check they are age appropriate content wise before setting her loose on one.
Finally, remember that she is still your little girl even though she is turning into a big girl and, this is the harder bit, remember her hormonal outbursts are as much a cry for help as her new-born mewling was not that long ago!
Marks and Spencer underwear http://www.marksandspencer.com/seamfree-matching-items/p/ds04540a74fa838173c23ea97e7dba99b5?prevPage=plp
Lil-lets teen range https://www.lil-lets.co.uk/products/teen-range?gclid=cjwkcaia_c7ubrajeiwapczi8f3dafajdezrh9ynxu5hzgq0lo41ane3kplopgbr1njo3c2h6o8g3boc6zcqavd_bwe
What’s Happening to Ellie Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Happening-Ellie-conditions-Sexuality/dp/1849055262
***I have not been paid to promote or endorse any products mentioned in this article.