Autism and Puberty: Five Things Parents Should Know
Puberty can be a stressful time for all adolescents, and while every child is different, it can be especially challenging for children on the autism spectrum. Here are five tips to help you navigate the challenges that come with raising an autistic child during puberty.
Five Things Every Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum Should Know About Puberty
- Teach them about puberty – Help them get prepared for the body changes to come. Teach them about the changes in their body using real anatomy terms. This will allow them to understand what is happening, so there is less stress for the child going through this process.
- Anticipate mood swings – Hormone surges are a significant part of puberty. Food is often a trigger for outbursts due to low blood sugar. When blood sugars are low, moodiness and anger are heightened, and kids are more easily set off by small things. Make sure your tween is eating correctly to keep their blood sugar balanced. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should include protein-rich foods and complex carbohydrates. Avoid simple sugars, which can be found in cereal, bagels, and pancakes. Save those foods for the weekend as a treat. Some great foods to serve kids include scrambled or hard boiled eggs, yogurt, granola, and oatmeal are packed with the nutrients they need to sustain them until lunch.
- Balance independence – Children need to gain more independence as they grow. This is also true for kids on the autism spectrum. If they are not given some freedom, defiance and noncompliance can become a genuine problem. Instead, allow them to make some choices over how they spend their time. Let them choose what’s for dinner a couple of nights a week. If they have a schedule they must abide by after school, let them pick the order in which things happen on their schedule.
- Supplements can help – Bodies that are lacking proper nutrients are more susceptible to not only sickness but also an increased incidence of outbursts because of poor mood regulation. Multivitamins, Omega-3’s, and Vitamins B and C are excellent at helping provide the body with the nutrients growing kids need as well as supporting the adrenal glands during puberty.
- Proper hygiene is necessary – Teaching kids adequate hygiene is an essential lesson in the changes that come with puberty. At some point or another, kids will begin to stink and therefore need to know how to take care of their bodies. Teach them about the importance of wearing deodorant every day. Avoid using antiperspirants because of aluminum, whenever possible. A daily bath or shower is essential to cleanse the skin and remove odor-causing bacteria from the body.
Raising an adolescent with autism presents unique challenges. Being prepared for puberty will help minimize the stresses that come from hormonal changes and keep your home as calm as possible. There are many great books available for teaching children on the autism spectrum about puberty. The Growing up Book for Boys and The Growing Up Book for Girls are two excellent books to have on hand for this meaningful conversation with your child.
If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatric provider, give us a call today. We are here to help you through this particular time in their life.