Many young people are not taught about puberty until it happens. This can lead to fear, misunderstanding and sometimes harmful behaviour.
Puberty can begin from age 9 upwards. Children should be taught the basics from an early stage, before puberty occurs;
‘When a boy starts to grow up his body will change. He will grow taller, he will get hair under his arms……sometimes his penis will go hard and stick out from his body…’
If this information is given early and repeated it may not seem as alarming when it does actually happen.
Many young people with autism have a fear about changes generally, so changes to their body can cause a lot of anxiety if they are not prepared. Teachers and parents should work together to develop the young person’s understanding. Teachers can incorporate Puberty in to their Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education for all pupils. Parents can carry out one-to-one work, encourage their son/daughter to explore their own bodies in a safe environment (in their bedroom, in front of a mirror. At bedtime. At bathtime), and check understanding of topics being discussed in school.
Intensive input may be required - from a few weeks to several months - in order to manage particular behaviours such as self harming or higher levels of anxiety about changes that are happening during puberty.
* some young people relate better to realistic images of bodies and body parts rather than cartoons/ line drawings