Growing up puberty and periods were not something that was talked about. It was so hush-hush that when I finally got my period I thought I was dying. That level of anxiety and fear over a natural part of life is something I knew I never wanted my own daughter to experience.
So I started talking with my Autistic daughter about menstruation and puberty early.
I was bound, set, and determined to help her be as prepared for her period as I possibly could.
And y’all it wasn’t easy.
I have stumbled, and fumbled, and made some big screw ups. I have been humiliated on multiple occasions as we learned how to balance transparency with social rules. And, I have learned a lot from her.
Autistic Girls and Menstruation
Menstruation is one of those no fun, hard to talk about topics. But, periods aren’t something that we should be afraid to discuss.
Puberty is a fact of life and something you are going to have to approach if you are raising kids…even if you aren’t comfortable with it.
When it comes to puberty and autism, there are some additional challenges that families and individuals might face. Issues such as which pads are sensory friendly? How do we discuss social rules and routines? How can we teach a topic that society deems taboo to our children in a way that normalizes their bodily functions for them? And what in the world do we do if our child reaches puberty before they are developmentally able to process it?
Precocious Puberty and Autism?
This is one of the biggest fears that I hear when it comes to menstruation and autism. That autism causes early onset puberty…
Can we just put this fear to rest already?
Now, I’m not a doctor so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. I am, however a mother who spends a ridiculous amount of time researching what my Autistic daughter might experience. I have also devoted my life to working with Autistic people.
As far as early onset puberty, everything I have read, experienced, and talked to our doctors about points to precocious puberty for autistic girls being a myth.
In fact, precocious puberty is more than likely caused by environmental exposure to estrogen, body weight, and socioeconomic status.
If this is a fear that you have, or if you fear that your daughter will get their period before she developmentally reaches a stage where she can process it, be proactive in helping your child learn about their body.
Introduce the Topic of Periods Early
Puberty can start anywhere between the ages of 7 to 17.
That’s a huge gap.
Thankfully, women’s bodies start showing signs of puberty about 1-2 years before they start menstruation. As soon as your daughter starts showing signs of puberty, start easing menstruation into conversation.
Talk about what a period is and how it is a natural process.
Familiarize your child with medical vocabulary around menstruation and routines.
Check out various different sanitary products so your child understands what they are, how to use them, and most importantly has had time to find a brand that she likes.
Use Positive Language When Discussing Puberty and Menstruation
Menstruation is taboo. Instead of celebrating this transition into womanhood, more often than not, our culture hides it.
Puberty is not a bad thing.
Puberty is nothing to be ashamed of.
Puberty is not a curse or something to be fearful of.
As the adults, we need to make these shifts in attitudes towards menstruation in order to help normalize the concept of periods for our children.
Change can already be difficult for an Autistic child. By using positive language, normalizing menstruation, and shifting our attitudes to celebrate growing up we can remove a lot of the unpredictability to influence how our children react to their periods while opening up that healthy dialogue.
Discuss the Social Rules with Transparency
If done right, puberty can be a very exciting thing. Do you remember how excited you were to become a teen? There is just something mystical and enchanting about growing up.
As you start discussing puberty and menstruation with your daughter, set the social rules early on – you can be excited to grow up, but, we don’t need to tell the world all the details.
This is one of the areas that I missed when introducing puberty to my Autistic daughter and it resulted in quite a few humiliating conversations with strangers.
Lay out the rules in black and white for your child and be fully equipped with a good sense of humor.
Use a Menstruation Visual Schedule
One of the biggest things that helped me learn how to manage my menses as a neurotypical teen was a 28 day pocket calendar. These little calendars make a fantastic visual schedule and they are discrete. Plus the inside of the covers can be used for simple PECS on topics such as how to change a pad.
Menstruation Social Story for Autistic Girls
I am a huge fan of using social stories. Social stories are a great way to help your autistic child get acquainted through images and positive language. You can visit And Next Comes L to learn how to write your own social story or find a “I Have My Period” social story already written for you below.
Autism Menstruation Resources and Products
- I Have My Period Social Story (snag it in our shop for only $1 OR help us by giving this post some social love below to download yours for free)
- Lunapads — some of the most sensory friendly pads I have found on the market.
- Absorbant Leak Proof Panties…these are by far the best thing that have come out of the “Free Bleed” movement if you ask me…
- Wet/Dry Bag — accidents happen. These little bags are fantastic for holding emergency supplies and providing a mess free discreet way to get items such as stained clothes back home while out in public.
- The Body Book for Girls
- Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum
- Everyday Life Skills for Personal Hygiene E-Book
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