Puberty is a natural development for all children. Puberty starts in girls around 10-11 and boys 11-12. Menstruation for girls typically occurs between 12 and 13, while voice changes for boys is often around 15. We ALL need to have on-going discussions with the child and this is where having both home and school helping the child’s understanding is vital. Boys and girls need to know about their changes and changes in the opposite sex too (particularly, if they have opposite sex siblings or are at co-ed schools). It is important to start the information before the changes occur otherwise the children can worry they are sick or something is wrong with them. I know some parents who talk about the changes before they happen and as they happen their children tell them and they celebrate!
Open, honest and on-going information is most effective, and not too much information all at once! That being said some children want to know everything and that is where books can be wonderful. Allowing the child access to information in books means they can read about it in their own time, and re-read if they are uncomfortable discussing things with you. For all children if at this age, you ask children “Do you have any questions?” they tend to say “No” but books can answer their questions and even explain concepts they might not even know about it yet, so prepare them in advance.
As part of puberty it is vital to talk about Public and Private Behaviour and Protective Behaviour. You will also need to discuss home and school behaviour and social skills. Some students will unknowingly exhibit embarrassing behaviours or share information or ask questions that are inappropriate – like asking a girl if she has her period, or a boy if he has pubic hair. I think all of us have seen those embarrassing moments and the key is to let them know when, where, who, etc – but also if they make a social mistake how to fit it up!
Make sure you let people with AS know the boundaries between illegal and legal websites. A number of people with AS have got in trouble with the Police for looking at inappropriate websites so it is VITAL we educate and let them know what is appropriate.(For older teens/young adults with a tendency to be online in appropriate websites I would recommend a book called The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law by Tony Attwood and Nick Dubin.) This is where books are so much better as you can control access to information and read together!
Fantastic Books for Home and School
I have sourced some fantastic resources for home and school to help children with puberty and beyond – Secret Boys Business and Secret Girls Business Series. This FANTASTIC series of books has been put together by a Teacher, a Psychologist and a Youth Health Nurse.
The books are designed to prepare girls and boys for the changes to their bodies (aimed at eight year olds). They use age appropriate language and simple instructions. They have six wonderful books each designed to meet specific information needs. All the books have succinct information, delivered with fun and in bite sized chunks. They use great pictures which are factual and interesting! I highly recommend for both home and school.
This popular series has added a new book to its range. The Secret Business of Relationships, Love and Sex discusses stages of relationships – friendships, crush, love, relationships, dating, rocky times, break up, etc. It also includes gender diversity.
Other Great Information:
- Watch the TV show Parenthood, Episode 413: Small Victories. Max who has AS starts puberty and this is a fantastic episode.
- Contact your local Family Planning. They have courses and great resources for kids with additional needs