Yes, we are getting ready for this stage of my daughter’s life. It’s inevitable therefore we must prepare for it and equip ourselves with helpful information to navigate this part which is a little more challenging than the “norm.” I am pretty sure I’m not the only parent with a daughter in the spectrum who has had to deal with this or getting ready to. Our early discussion about the matter started when she complained about a stomach ache. I asked her how painful it really was. Is it the upper belly part or the lower part. Is it more like you have to go to the bathroom kind of stomach ache or is it like cramps. When she tells me “it’s both, I guess” that doesn’t help us one bit 😀 . FYI, she hasn’t had her period yet but we are in preparation mode.
This is a resource list on the subject. If this is too much info for you then I suggest you stop reading now. This is for me and my fellow Autism Moms who will ALWAYS need help. We may not know each other in this vast internet space hub but I want them to know we’re all in this journey together and we’ll take and share all the help that we could get.
Helping your adolescent navigate puberty (from Autism Speaks)
It’s important to teach your daughter about her period and what to expect. Do this the same way that you teach her about other things: Break down information into simple facts, using visuals, lots of repetition and social stories.
To help her prepare for each period, keep track of her cycle on a calendar. Let her help you make a hygiene kit that she can keep in her bathroom, her backpack or with a school nurse. Finally, make sure she has a way to let you know if she has cramps or a headache. You may find it helpful to make notes about the onset of her period, her mood, sleep, appetite and when problem behaviors occur.
You can use the same supports during puberty that you have always used to help your child. Remind her of good ways to express strong emotions. If she’s verbal, encourage her to use her words to label feelings (“It sounds like you’re feeling angry,” or “So when she did that, it made you sad.”) If your child is less verbal, use supports like pictures, signing, word cards or an “emotion thermometer” (right) to help her express her feelings.
Consider getting support from a counselor or therapist who’s familiar with your child’s diagnosis. He or she can help you identify why her challenging behaviors are occurring, develop a plan to reduce them and evaluate her for depression or severe anxiety.
Getting your period is a tough topic for every parent/child to cope with, but introducing the topic of menstruation to girls on the autism spectrum can be a daunting task. Mothers worry about how their daughters will react to the event. Will there be sensory issues around blood flow and the use of sanitary pads? How will they feel about this change in their body? Will it be painful? How do you teach hygiene around menstruation? Will menstruation be understood and accepted?
Introduce the topic of menstruation early
There are ways to ease the transition into menstruation. Introduce the topic of menstruation early – one to two years before you think it may occur- to get used to what it is about and how natural a process it is. Allow time to become familiar with the vocabulary around menstruation and practice routines. Have the child wear a pad from time to time to get used to the feeling of it. Teach how to put on a pad and proper disposal of pads (not in the toilet, wrapping up a used one, putting it in the wastebasket). Visual supports can help with the process of breaking down the routine into steps. A great book that addresses this topic with the use of visual supports and social stories is Mary Wrobel’s book Taking Care of Myself.(source)
Practical preparations for periods
Your daughter will also need to know what pads and tampons look like and how to use them. You could go to the supermarket and choose some different pads or tampons together. You know your child best, so you’ll be able to decide whether pads or tampons will be best for her.
If your daughter keeps her pads and tampons in a particular drawer in her bedroom, or in the bathroom, she’ll know where they are when she needs them.
If your daughter uses visual supports, a visual schedule that shows the steps involved in changing a reusable cloth, pad or tampon can be useful. It will also help if you show your daughter where to attach the cloth or sanitary pad – you could mark her underwear to show where it goes.
Once your daughter’s periods have started, you could show her how to use a calendar or an app to plan when her period is due.
You might need to tell your daughter who to go to at school if her periods start there – for example, the school nurse.(source)
Other resources on the topic of Autism and Menstruation:
The Autism Site
Social Story from Able2Learn: My daughter has this book which my MIL found on Amazon. Emma has read it from cover to cover. She understands that she needs to prepare for her menstrual period. The book provides a visual guide for step-by-step process which helps tremendously.