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Talking To Aspergers Children About Puberty

The teenage years can be trying for kids and their moms and dads. An Aspergers diagnosis compounds the journey and makes it more complex. Thinking about a future of surging hormones can be very scary for moms and dads. We, as parents, feel a part of ourselves back in that intense and sometimes scary world of our own adolescence. Try not to let your own fears about your youngster’s changing hormones scare him or make him feel that the change he is going through is scary or bad.

A youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism can learn to cope with the trials and tribulations of puberty and the teenage years. Your Aspie may have many questions, and it is important for parents to be tuned-in to what the teenager might be asking for. There are plenty of teachable moments in everyday life. For the conscious and aware mother or father, more often than not, kids teach us as much or more than we teach them. There is no shame in educating (or re-educating) ourselves to be equal to the task.

Many changes happen around puberty, and these changes can certainly affect behavior, including in areas where your Aspie has already made so many strides. As with all teens, your adolescent may regress in some areas even while he continues to move forward in others. Furthermore, these changes can be unexpected and unpredictable.

Aspergers teens need information that matches their level of understanding. Your child needs to learn about puberty and the physical and emotional changes he may go through so that he can take some responsibility to piece together what will be happening to him.

Don't wait for your youngster to come to you with questions about his or her changing body — that day may never arrive, especially if your youngster doesn't know it is acceptable to talk to you about this sensitive topic. Ideally, as a mother or father, you've already started talking to your youngster about the changes our bodies go through as we grow.

It's important to answer questions about puberty honestly and openly — but don't always wait for your youngster to initiate a discussion. By the time children are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some females are wearing training bras by then and some males' voices begin to change just a few years later.

With females, it's vital that moms and dads talk about menstruation before they actually get their periods. If they are unaware of what's happening, females can be frightened by the sight and location of blood. Most females get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old, which is about two or two and a half years after they begin puberty. But some get their periods as early as age 9 -- and others get it as late as age 16.

On average, males begin going through puberty a little later than females, usually around age 11 or 12. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older or developing facial hair first.

Just as it helps adults to know what to expect with changes such as moving to a new home or working for a new company, children should know about puberty beforehand.

Many children receive some sex education at school. Often, though, the lessons are segregated, and the females hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the males hear about erections and changing voices. It's important that females learn about the changes males go through and males learn about those affecting females, so check with teachers about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It's a good idea to review the lessons with your youngster, because children often still have questions about certain topics.

When talking to children about puberty, it's important to offer reassurance that these changes are normal. Puberty brings about so many changes. It's easy for a youngster to feel insecure, and as if he or she is the only one experiencing these changes.

Many times, adolescents will express insecurity about their appearance as they go through puberty, but it can help them to know that everyone goes through the same things and that there's a huge amount of normal variation in their timing. Acne, mood changes, growth spurts, and hormonal changes — it's all part of growing up and everyone goes through it, but not always at the same pace.

Females may begin puberty as early as second or third grade, and it can be upsetting if your daughter is the first one to get a training bra, for example. She may feel alone and awkward or like all eyes are on her in the school locker room.

With males, observable changes include the cracking and then deepening of the voice, and the growth of facial hair. And just as with females, if your son is an early bloomer, he may feel awkward or like he's the subject of stares from his classmates.

Children should know the following about puberty:

• A girl's period may last 3 days to a week, and she can use sanitary napkins (pads) or tampons to absorb the blood.
• Both females and males have a growth spurt.
• Both females and males often get acne and start to sweat more.
• Males grow facial hair and their muscles get bigger.
• Males' penises and testicles grow larger.
• Males sometimes have wet dreams (i.e., they ejaculate in their sleep).
• Males' voices change and become deeper.
• Females and males get pubic hair and underarm hair, and their leg hair becomes thicker and darker.
• Females become more rounded, especially in the hips and legs.
• Females' breasts begin to swell and then grow, sometimes one faster than the other.
• When a girl begins menstruating, once a month, her uterine lining fills with blood in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg isn't fertilized, she will have a period. If it is fertilized, she will become pregnant.

Not surprisingly, children usually have lots of questions as they learn about puberty. For you, it's important to make sure you give your youngster the time and opportunity to ask questions — and answer them as honestly and thoroughly as possible.

Let your youngster know that you're available any time to talk, but it's also important that you make time to talk. As embarrassing or difficult it may be for you to talk about these sensitive topics, your youngster will likely feel even more uncomfortable. As a parent, it's your job to try to discuss puberty — and the feelings associated with those changes — as openly as possible.

It can be made easier if you're confident that you know the subject matter. First, before you answer your youngster's questions, make sure your own questions have been answered. If you're not entirely comfortable having a conversation about puberty, practice what you want to say first or ask your youngster's doctor for advice. Let your youngster know that it may be a little uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important talk to have.

If there are questions or concerns about pubertal development that you can't answer, a visit to your youngster's doctor may help provide reassurance.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They should also be educated on the social changes. Aspies are socially and emotionally delayed producing an 9yr in an 11 or 12 yr old's body. My son became very confused when girls stopped playing with him and why boys his age didn't want to play with toys.

This is when girls and boys break into groups and say that boys/girls have 'cooties'. Some girls will have monthly mood swings, so explain to boys what's happening to the girl. (My Aspie nephew watches the calendar and stays out of his mother's way one week a month.)

It's also a time when boy have increased testosterone causing some to act as if they were in a primitive society that requires competition between males for their standing in the 'clan' (increase bullying, rule enforcers or 'tattle tales', female protectiveness, and so on.) If your son already has frequent melt downs, he'll have even more during puberty. Teach them early to control their anger and frustration. Explain what the bullies will do and act out situations so that your son will know what to do. If not, some Aspies, as a defense mechanism, will, after repeated bullying, become the bully. An example: my son has had to lean to ignore the bullies instead of hitting them; however, if he sees a girl or disabled kid being bullied, he becomes the protector - by hitting the bully. We are currently trying to teach him to either get a teacher or escort the victim away from the situation.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But...

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent?

Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

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