Autism: Helping Young Adults with Puberty
Learning about puberty is a rite of passage for all young people. Most of the time it happens right inside the classroom. Teaching puberty can be a tricky task for many families. Topics can get uncomfortable, and both kids and parents might feel embarrassed. But the kids need to learn, and it’s a necessary part of growing up. Many schools have a standard puberty talk with kids when they get close to middle school. It’s at this age that they begin to notice changes in their bodies.
A rite of passage for all young people is to learn about puberty. This learning most of the time happens in the classroom. For many families it can be a tricky task to teach about puberty. For both kids and parents the topic may get uncomfortable and embarrassing. However they need to know this and puberty is a necessary part of growing up. When students get close to middle school many of them have a standard puberty talk arranged for the kids. Changes in the bodies are noticed at this age.
For children with autism the talk can be challenging
Teaching about puberty can be challenging for kids with autism. Most of the times just simply talking about puberty is not enough since the needs of these children is quite different. Sometimes a child with autism is prohibited from attending such session which then puts lot of burden on the parents to educate their teens by themselves.
How can parents help?
A special education programme has been started by Dr Kelly McKinnon-Bermingham a clinical psychologist in Santa Ana in California a director of behavior intervention at UC Irvine’s Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders and from University of California Irvine two graduate students Nick Tillier and Nick Riley. They educate children with autism. They educated the children about the changes in the body associated with puberty and how to cope up with it.
How the program is helpful
The ATN/AIR-P puberty and adolescence resource was started by the team. Sensitive topics surrounding puberty was tackled in an autistic learning style. The lessons were engaging and visual and things were made easier for children. Using attractive pictures the skills were explained. Also after learning the skills students got to practice them. The program was informative and loved by both kids and parents.
To help guide these kids with lots of pictures and detailed instructions, special kits were used. The instructions for parents and kids were simple and conversational. For less verbal children step by step pictures were used that was helpful. These easy-to-follow guides were loved by both and there was a suggestion to create some more of this type so that parents could explain about these sensitive topics to their kids. For parents, simple and informative scripts were created. Talking to a child with autism about the sensitive changes that happen in the buddy as they reach adulthood is the biggest challenge for the parents and for someone with autism this is difficult to accept and understand. These scripts provided useful tips.
There were in -class components and physical materials that could be carried home. For each gender special guides were made and they contained information on the body changes that happen and about proper hygiene. For classroom component the kid and the parents would come on a weekly basis for a total of four weeks, on-site lasses. Engaging vides, hands on experience and plenty of videos were used to tackle a different topic on puberty every week.
For both kid and the parent there was weekly homework that consisted of checklist of hygiene routines and puberty. The following week at every class these checklists were turned in.
Each kid at the end of the program got a summary based on whatever they learnt. For all the hygiene and puberty skills that they practiced in class they got visual guides. To help them with their hygiene schedules everyone was taught to put their reminder in their cell phones on.