Explaining the Physical Changes of Puberty
During puberty, your adolescent with autism will undergo a number of exciting yet confusing physical changes. Girls will experience their first menstrual period (menarche). Boys will have their first ejaculation (spermarche). Both genders will experience growth spurts that will rapidly transform their appearance from childlike to that of a sexually mature young adult.
The best way to help your autistic child deal with puberty is to maintain a cool head and be prepared to educate him or her about the changes his or her body is undergoing. In other words, you'll need to be able to calmly and clearly tell your daughter that her height gains, growth of pubic hair and onset of menstruation are all normal processes for girls who are growing into young ladies. It also means explaining to your son that his height spurt, growth of pubic hair, increase in penis size and testicular development are part of the natural experience of growing up and becoming a young man.
It's highly advisable that you initiate the conversation about physical changes when your child is about to enter puberty (about age 10), but before his or her body starts to undergo changes. However, since some children may begin undergoing pubertal changes earlier, use your own judgment and the advice of your child's pediatrician as a guide.
Try to coordinate beginning discussions with your child with compatible health and sex education programs being offered at his or her school. Speak with your child's homeroom and/or health teacher to find out what will be covered in the curriculum and if any of the materials may be available for home use. Obtain pamphlets and other literature, photographs and illustrations and other visual aids to help you talk with your child about puberty in a way that he or she will understand, and use learning aids that address their specific learning styles. For some adolescents, you may need to use anatomically correct dolls, picture systems or videos.