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  • Writer's pictureCavendish Education

Supporting Autistic Girls During Puberty: A Guide for Parents

In honour of International Women's day 2024, Louise Wallis-Jones, Head of Therapies and Lead Speech and Language Therapist at The Holmewood School, shares her top tips to support girls during puberty.

Puberty can be a challenging time for any child, but it can be especially confusing and overwhelming for autistic girls. As parents, your role in supporting your autistic daughters during this period of change is crucial. Open communication, understanding unique sensory needs, providing routines, and teaching boundaries are all key aspects of helping your child navigate puberty successfully.

1. Open Communication: Establish a Safe Space

One of the most important things you can do is to create a safe and open environment for your autistic daughter to discuss her feelings, concerns, and questions about puberty. Autistic individuals may find it challenging to express their emotions, so it's essential to encourage them to communicate. Here are some tips:

Use Clear, Direct Language: When discussing puberty-related topics, use simple and straightforward language. Avoid using metaphorical or euphemistic terms, as autistic individuals often prefer direct communication.

Non-Judgmental Responses: be supportive when your child opens up to you. Avoid laughing or making jokes unless it's context-specific and clearly understood by your child. Then, jokes and humour are a great way to help your daughter manage her anxiety, if on her terms.

Visuals and Social Stories: Visual aids and social stories can be incredibly helpful in explaining the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty. These make information more accessible and predictable for autistic girls, reducing anxiety around potentially unpredictable scenarios.

2. Addressing Sensory Needs

Autistic girls may have unique and specific sensory needs during puberty. These needs could include sensitivities to certain types of feminine hygiene products, clothing, or even changes in routine. Here's how you can address these sensory needs:

Individual Assessment: Take the time to understand your child's sensory preferences and sensitivities. This knowledge will help you make informed choices about clothing, hygiene products, and routines.

Provide Routines: Create self-care routines that can be easily followed. Break down each step, providing clear instructions and visuals if necessary. Consistency and predictability are essential for many autistic individuals.

3. Teaching Boundaries and Privacy

Understanding boundaries and privacy becomes crucial during puberty to ensure the safety and well-being of autistic girls. Here are some strategies to help teach these concepts:

Concrete and Explicit Teaching: Autistic individuals often benefit from concrete and explicit instructions. Use clear and straightforward language when discussing personal boundaries and privacy.

Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as social stories or visual schedules, can help reinforce the concept of boundaries and privacy. These visual aids provide a tangible way for autistic girls to understand and remember these important concepts.

4. Managing Emotions

Puberty often brings about intense emotions for all children, and autistic girls may struggle even more to regulate their feelings during this time. It's essential to acknowledge these emotions and provide strategies to manage stress and anxiety. Here's how:

Acknowledge Different Feelings: Let your child know that it's okay to have different feelings, and that these emotions are a normal part of growing up. Create a safe space for them to express their emotions without judgement.

Provide Strategies: Work with your child to develop strategies for managing stress and anxiety. These strategies could include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, or engaging in calming activities.

Targeted Resources and Patience: During their period, some autistic girls may need more targeted resources and extra patience. Be prepared to adapt your support to their specific needs during this time.

Supporting autistic girls during puberty requires open communication, sensitivity to sensory needs, clear teaching of boundaries, and assistance with managing emotions. By creating a safe and understanding environment, you can help your child navigate this challenging period with confidence and resilience. Remember that every autistic girl is unique, so tailor your support to her individual needs and preferences. Your guidance and support are essential as she embarks on this journey of growth and self-discovery.


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