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Have you talked to your children about puberty yet?

Posted by on Nov. 11, 2016 at 11:57 AM
  • 4 Replies

The Birds & Bees & Special Needs

Marj Hatzell

My husband and I were blindsided when our 10-year-old suddenly had an interest in puberty last week. Even though we've always been open and honest and have used appropriate terminology (hint: it's not called a little fireman. It's a penis.), it was still a shock.

We were prepared for this! We read books and decided on what we wanted to say and how we were going to say it. And yet we were still all, "Uhhhhmmmm. What?" When he innocently told us, "Some kids at school called me gay. Why would they tease me about being happy?" And when we said, "You know, gay is when two men or two women like each other very much and sometimes get married." He said, "But I LOVE boys!" Ahem. It just wasn't coming out of our mouths the right way.

Many parents are nervous when approaching the subject of puberty. With special needs children it can be more difficult, especially if there is a communication gap. Some children with special needs develop much earlier than their typical peers (called precocious puberty) and the anxiety over not knowing what to expect for children hitting early puberty can be catastrophic.  

Until recently we've seen very few books dealing with the subject and we certainly couldn't find them at a local book store. And because everything labeled "special needs" requires you to sign over your first-born child and pay exorbitant amounts of money, sometimes those books are out of our budget. The good news? There are affordable, well-written books out there, both for parents and children. We even managed to find one with comics in it that our son finds amusing and informative, called It's Perfectly Normal, by Robie H. Harris. While it isn't necessarily written for special needs, our son (who is obsessed with comics -- this one has them!) understood it and actually enjoyed it. A few others we particularly like:

Wanna know who the best author of a special needs puberty book is? YOU. Yes, you can write your own puberty story! And they are free! Social Stories, by Carol Gray, are a great tool to teach you how to write your own theme-specific story, custom-made (by you!) for your child. The concept behind this method is to help your child lessen anxiety and learn social cues they might otherwise miss in real-life situation. Social stories can be written for a variety of topics and experiences and are useful for everything from trips to the dentist to buying bras with your tween daughter.

One word of caution, however. Be sure to pre-read every book you hand to your child. There may be certain topics in the book that you'll have to explain further or there might be some things you philosophically disagree with. It would be a teensy bit uncomfortable if there was inappropriate material for your child's age or developmental level and they began asking you questions you aren't prepared to deal with.

  • Do you research early.
  • Do NOT wait until they are asking you the questions.
  • Don't be caught off guard.
  • Do keep a straight face (even if they tell you how much like touching themselves. Not like it happened to US or anything. Ahem.) so that your child doesn't feel ridiculed or embarrassed.
  • Answer all questions as honestly as you can. Even if they ask about the time your parked the car near you aunt's house and the cops pulled up and caught you necking and asked to see ID and sent you home. Just sayin'.

Have you talked to your special needs child about puberty yet?

by on Nov. 11, 2016 at 11:57 AM
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by Michele on Nov. 11, 2016 at 2:28 PM
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Not really. He is in the beginning stages of puberty, but I don't think he really understands enough for me to explain it. I am thinking I will be taking it one step and explanation at a time, as they come up.
by Platinum Member on Nov. 13, 2016 at 2:38 AM
With Lina, because she was constantly following me to the bathroom she learned about periods from a very early age so it didn't cause her a problem. She also learned that as she got older she'd develope breasts and all the other wonderful women stuff again because she was always with me and sometimes asked questions. The only talk that still has to be done is the sex talk so far no questions but it is something that I've got to begin with her a little at a time.

What I discovered with my kids as they were growing up was that when they asked a question all they wanted was an answer to that question and nothing more but if the answer raised more questions then I just kept giving answers. It seemed to work best that way because even though they were not special needs they didn't want the whole puberty and sex talk they just wanted an answer. Doing it that way kept them open to talking instead of feeling like they were sitting in a lecture.
by on Nov. 19, 2016 at 12:23 PM

They have "the talk" in class during the 5th grade here so my oldest and I did go through that and he asked a couple of questions later which I answered.
They all know they can ask me whatever and they are pretty good about doing it.
My younger two(10 and 8) are not really ready for that talk because even hearing the word "kiss" makes them do the "EWWWW GROSS" comments LOL.

by New Member on Nov. 25, 2016 at 2:07 PM

i do not understand why any parent would not talk to their children about such.  special needs or not.  it's a disservice to the children.  i work in a public elementary school with autistic children & we recently had one of our older girls, 10, start her period.  she had no idea what was happening & was completely freaked out.  she is high functioning, spends part of the day in a gen ed class but because she didn't know anything about the changes she was going through thought she was dieing.  it took two au teachers & a para to get her calmed down.  when her teacher called her parents they responded with "well we didn't know when such would happen with her so we felt no need to upset her prematurely".  really?!  

there are ways to communicate such changes to all children no matter of age or needs.  my children both started learning about such in kindergarten through a program our church does.

please for the sake of those that help care for your children when you are not there teach them about such changes early.  work with their drs, caregivers, teachers, etc. to help you help your wonderful little ones understand what even some adults still have a hard time understanding! ;o)

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