Autism from a mama who has been there. I am hoping to post every day this month. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments.
Ugh, puberty… Do we have to?
No, no, no. I did not want to do this. At all. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I would ever be prepared. With my other kids, it was a short sit-down, Q & A. I knew this was going to be something else entirely.
What I didn’t know before because I didn’t need to know is that there are 5 stages of puberty. And I have to tell you that each one brought unique issues with my autistic son.
Stage 1: Brought a school lock-down and hospitalization at age 9. This resulted in a diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. This is not a result of autism, but autism did make things more challenging to diagnose.
Stage 2: A discussion about where the hair is supposed to grow. Do NOT pluck your pubic hair. It’s normal. It is supposed to grow there. Fortunately, I had an older son who was able to demonstrate some of these things when my husband was deployed (which was often, and for long periods.)
Stage 3: The voice changes. And you must explain that teasing their autistic sibling is done at significant risk to their health and safety. My other children chose wisely.
Stage 4: Remember your pubic hair discussion? You get to repeat it for the armpits. Good times. Yes, I shave my armpits, but boys don’t. I even stopped shaving to prove that I grew armpit hair too.
Stage 5: Learning to shave, yikes. I actually tasked my older son with this one because there are different tools and techniques.
And somewhere between stages 3 and 5, you will have to deal with the emotional turmoil of hormones. Hormones will rage, your child will rage. You will rage. For us, this resulted in our son participating in an outpatient, part educational/part therapy school.
Our son was later diagnosed with an adrenaline condition that made all of this hormone drama tremendously difficult. I was fortunate to be led to a doctor online who was one of the foremost researchers of this condition, and his help was life-saving. He and the pediatrician worked together to get our son through this frustrating and dangerous time. It was during these scary months that our son was on Home Hospital. A teacher would visit three times a week with work packets from his HS teachers. Trust me, this was the safest option for everyone.
To all the families going through puberty with their autistic child, I pray for you. Remember, you are a team. Reach out, take time for yourself, and breathe. This, too, shall pass.
Celebrate the small stuff. Be flexible. Laugh.