adolesence

Beyond The Talk: What Else Autistic Girls Need to Know About Puberty

This was originally posted at a group blog that I’m part of: We Are Like Your Child. It primarily addresses parents of young autistics, but I’m reposting here because I thought other autistic adults might have helpful tips to add or their own wishlist of things they’d known about puberty.

One request: if you talk about anything traumatic, please reference it obliquely. There are some younger readers here now and I could see others finding this post in a search for autism and puberty or adolescence.

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When it came to puberty, my parents did what many parents in the seventies did: they gave me a book about puberty written especially for girls. It was a slim cranberry hardback with an ambiguous title like “Everything is Changing.”

I was a voracious reader, so I would curl up in my beanbag and scour the pages for clues to the mysterious changes that were on the horizon. I think I had many of the same fears, anxieties and curiosities about puberty as my friends had. Certainly my body went through the same changes that other girls experienced. However, I think there are some areas where girls on the spectrum would benefit from additional information or guidance. That’s what I’m going to focus on in this post.

Many of the issues I want to touch on also apply to boys. I’m specifically addressing the issue of puberty in girls because I was once a girl and I raised a daughter. Girls are my wheelhouse. If you’re looking for information about boys, I hope you can adapt some of the ideas below but, honestly, boys are a mystery to me.

adolesence

In addition to talking to your autistic daughter about all of the things parents normally cover when talking about puberty, consider discussing the following when you feel the timing and circumstances are right: 

1. Hygiene

  • Talk about where body odor comes from and why, be sure to mention that sometimes we can’t detect our own body odor but others can

  • Emphasize the importance of daily showers, tooth brushing, mouthwash, deodorant and changes of clothes in preventing body odor

You may have to repeat hygiene instructions or reminders many times. You may need to come up with a visual or text schedule to hang in the bathroom. There are still days when I need a reminder to do basic self-care tasks. This isn’t “one and done” instruction for many autistic individuals.

If you notice that the stick of deodorant is lasting far too long or there aren’t enough pairs of underwear showing up in the laundry to account for daily changes, you may need to go on a fact finding mission. If you ask “why aren’t you wearing deodorant?” there’s a good chance you’ll get the tried and true aspie standard: “I don’t know.”

Maybe the deodorant smells too strongly or feels sticky. Maybe she has two pairs of underwear that are comfortable and ten that aren’t. A better approach then “why aren’t you ____?” is “how did you like that deodorant we picked out?” Maybe she hates it and doesn’t know how to tell you. This stuff can be embarrassing when it’s so new and confusing.

2. Social skills

(use your judgment to decide on age appropriateness of the following)

  • Talk about appropriate/inappropriate ways that people express interest in each other. Give specific age appropriate verbal and nonverbal examples.

  • Talk about how to say no and what to do if someone doesn’t take “no” seriously.

  • Explain what flirting is. Give age appropriate examples of verbal and nonverbal flirting cues that people use.

  • Explain the concept of personal space/boundaries, including how a person signals that they don’t want another person to come closer or to touch them.

  • Talk about types of touch, specifically the differences between how friends touch each other (on the arm, on the shoulder, quick platonic hugs) and how boyfriends/girlfriends touch each other (holding hands, on the face, longer hugs).

If you’re already working on social skills with your daughter, romantic partner interaction can be presented as new age appropriate skills to be learned like any others. Be specific. Use lots of examples, perhaps drawing on movies, TV shows or some time spent people watching at the mall food court. The wider variety of examples you give her, the better. Remember, autism makes it hard to generalize from one situation to another.

Don’t assume that autistic girls will extrapolate from middle school social skills to high school skills the way typical girls often do. Continue to update your daughter’s knowledge bank as she gets older. How people express interest in each other is appropriate for a young teen. An older teen needs specific knowledge about what a romantic advance looks like and how to verbally/nonverbally signal acceptance or rejection in an appropriate way. She also needs to know when she’s giving off “I’m interested” signals, especially if they’re unintentional.

This may not seem like rocket science to a typical female. Most women instinctively understand the verbal and nonverbal language of flirting, but for someone who struggles with reading body language, it can be mind boggling. I’m 44, fairly intelligent, in a long-term relationship . . . and I still have only the vaguest idea of what flirting looks like in action.

3. Sensory issues

  • Include your preteen or teen in choices of new hygiene products like deodorant, pads or tampons. Sensitivity to smell can make perfumed items (yes, even tampons) hard to tolerate.

  • Tactile sensitivities may impact your daughter’s choices and comfort level with clothing, especially a newly introduced bra. Don’t be surprised if she seems to cling to her more comfortable “childish” clothing. Help her find age-appropriate clothing that’s comfortable.

  • Be alert to the role hypo- or hypersensitivity to pain can play in menstruation. I used to get cramps so bad that my legs would feel numb and often that was the complaint I voiced. I’m sure my “numb legs” made little sense to the school nurse as a symptom of menstruation.

Depending on your daughter’s interests, personality and sensory sensitivities, she may be interested in make-up, hairstyles, clothing and other things popular with girls her age, or she may not. She might become interested in those things at a later age than her peers. She might want to try some of them out, but only if she can do while not aggravating her sensory sensitivities.

Honestly, there’s no typical autistic girl when it comes to personal grooming preferences. You might have a daughter who can barely be bothered to run a brush through her hair or you might have a daughter with a special interest in eyeliner that threatens to break the bank.

4. Hormones!

I’ve saved this one for last because it’s a bit scary. The hormonal changes of puberty and adolescence are hard on typical girls. For girls on the spectrum, they can seriously throw things out whack. Before puberty, I’d never had a full-on meltdown. Hormones turned me into a shouting, door-slamming, crying mess. And the worst part was, most of the time I had no idea why. It all felt completely irrational.

Be alert to changes in your daughter as she goes through puberty. This may be a time when other conditions like anxiety or mood disorders arise. You may see an increase in stimming or other self-comforting behavior. It may be when her need for alone time skyrockets or you feel like she’s backsliding in social skills, emotional regulation or other areas that seemed stable.

It may also be anticlimactic. She may encounter the same issues as typical girls and you’ll get to suffer through them like all the other moms.

If you see your daughter struggling with new issues, talk to her about them. She may be aware of an issue but not know how to approach it, she may be fine with handling it the way she is or the issue may not have even made it onto her radar yet. I’ll assume you have strategies that work in this kind of situation and leave the details up to you.

5. Questions?

Not yours, your daughter’s. Keep the lines of communication open and emphasize that your daughter can ask you about anything, no matter how silly, strange, uncomfortable or obvious it might seem. If she has difficulty raising questions verbally–and this can be true at times even of girls who are usually verbal–give her the option to share questions in writing and to have your answers in writing as well. That way she can come back as needed and reread them.

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The tips here are by no means all-inclusive. They’re simply the things that come to mind when I think about what would have been helpful for me as I matured.

If you’re looking for more information about puberty, sexuality, and adolescent hygiene, Autism Help has extensive information, beginning with the basics of teaching about body parts and the difference between public/private activities. There are a nice set of visual aids you can download and use in talking with your child as well.

163 thoughts on “Beyond The Talk: What Else Autistic Girls Need to Know About Puberty”

  1. This is really really good! You describe a lot of the basics that may seem self evident to most people but which really baffled me as a teen (and I still haven’t gotten the hang of INTENTIONAL flirting at 36, I always seem to do it by accident and when I least want to!) :)

    1. I also can’t intentionally flirt.

      Also: Teach about the difference between flirting and harassment. Because sexual harassment is something pretty much all girls are going to have to deal with at some point, and a lot of people try to act as if sexual harassment is flirting. When I was a kid, I was naive enough to think they were telling the truth, and as such, I was the butt of a lot of cruel pranks.

    2. Thank you! I have a funny story about flirting. My husband thought I was flirting with him when we first met so he pursued me. We recently concluded that I was probably staring at him and didn’t realize it because that’s something I do all the time. :-)

    3. Great blog post!
      I agree @Autisticook – the flirting thing can be so confusing. I never knew when someone was flirting with me unless they were being overt/aggressive, and I was also told I was flirting all the time when I absolutely wasn’t – gross! lol
      @musingsofanaspie – yes the staring thing always confuses people, I’m so glad it worked out positively for you! :)

    4. Autisticook, what’s even funnier is that some of the guys I talk to think I’m very interested in them…and I’m not XD someone told me that guys tend to overestimate a girl’s interest but, hey, Musings-it all worked out for the best!!!

  2. I’ll comment the same thing here as I did there: Bra fittings. Get them. Get them regularly (every 6 months at least in early puberty, and every year thereafter), because kids change bra sizes a lot well into later adolescence and sometimes into early adulthood and beyond. A properly-fitting bra, for me, is the difference between a bra that’s driving me nuts all day and one I can actually wear. Also: Have the store person explain to a kid how to tell if a bra fits. I had no idea how to tell until I met someone who worked in a bra store for 3 years, and so I thought bras that were way too loose were fitting fine. Also: Plain, seamless bras exist. Get them for your daughters. Don’t force them into lacey monstrocities. They look pretty, but they’re sensory hell to wear. Aesthetics should be secondary to comfort.

    Finally, if all that fails to make a bra wearable, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing sports bras. I wore nothing but sports bras until my late teens (by which, I mean age 19). On days when my sensory stuff is bad, I will still reach for a sports bra instead of a regular bra. I’m fond of Under Armor brand sports bras, and when it comes to sports bras, opt for racerback types as they give the best support, unless there’s a sensory issue at play.

    1. Yes, definitely good points! I didn’t get a properly fitted bra until I was 31 which was the main reason I preferred to go braless most of the time. Going from my assumed 90B (40B) to a 70E (32DD) just because the girl at the register said “no way” when I tried to pay for a new bra has been an absolute revelation.

    2. Yup! After suffering miserably with “regular bras” for, well, forever (and, believe me, I spent a decent part of my teenage years avoiding them like the plague), assuming that EVERYONE was miserable in them, I’ve for the most part given up in them, and live in sports bras.

      1. I just wore sports bras until I was in high school. And most of them were actually bathing suit tops. I didn’t think it was fair, because my sisters didn’t have to (they were 2 years younger than I was…) and wouldn’t wear anything with “straps” or “triangles”. It was a very slow process… but now I wear normal bras and don’t even notice most of the time (it may have taken 10 years or so, but I’ve finally adjusted). (It probably helped that at some point after I’d started wearing some more-normal bras, my mom went through a phase of bra fitting and FORCED me to go at some point and so now they probably ft me 100% properly).

      1. Yeah. I think as well, a lot of adult women don’t get how hard it is to tell if a completely-new-to-you type of garment fits well. I mean, I wouldn’t know the first thing about sizing a corset – I never wear corsets! So why would I think that my niece, when she’s old enough, will have any clue about how to size a a bra? Add in that a lot of women were themselves never taught how to judge the fit of a bra properly (I imagine a lot of them got the same sort of education from their mothers as I got from mine: “How can I tell if it fits?” “You can just tell. It should be comfortable and not too tight.” – er, well, define “too tight”, and no bras were comfortable for me when I was getting used to them – there was only varying levels of discomfort. So, uh… not helpful), and you have people teaching their daughters wrongly or not teaching them at all.

  3. Another thought: (I know that I grew up in a strange environment, so, problems that I had, may not apply to others?)

    Make sure that, pre puberty, you share enough “building block” type information that the revelations of puberty aren’t as overwhelming. The things that, you may assume it is natural to know, but that your daughter may NOT.

    For example (this is so embarrassing, but, here goes) up until age 11? 12? I had NO idea that I had a vagina. None. No one had ever told me, and, apparently, I’d never, er, discovered so on my own. I can only imagine how horrible it would have been to be still in the dark about that one for another year or two, and to have had to have the facts about menstruation explained, while also having the fact revealed to me that I had a whole new body part from which to menstruate!

    It may also be good to go into an indepth explanation of exactly why good hygiene is important. I had terrible hygiene as a teen (no one ever gave me these discussions) and was pretty mercilessly teased for it. As an older teen, a friend somewhat “took me under her wing” and taught me how to take care of myself, and, lo and behold, almost instantly, I became extremely popular. (Although I pushed it away, angry that all it took was an improvement to my looks to make friends.)

    My point is that a discussion about how personal appearance can affect you socially is very important. It made absolutely NO sense to me that the people who had avoided and ridiculed me the year before (pre-self care) suddenly LOVED me the next year. To me, I was the same person! The same person, just in clothes that fit, and exercising proper hygiene. No one had ever explained to me just how much of social interaction WASN’T about what was “inside”. And, it’s not a fun conversation to have. People want to say that it’s “who you are inside” that counts, and I took that very literally. But, the fact is, that no one will ever get close enough to find out “who you are” if they’re repulsed by the way you smell, or if you look like you live in the woods.

    1. Thank you – both really important points. Having the right words and understanding body parts is important! I think it can also go a long way toward removing the fear that some kids develop around bodily functions, etc based on rumors. I remember on the bus in kindergarten hearing older kids talk about showering after gym class in high school and immediately deciding I wasn’t going to high school because of some of the stuff they were saying. To a naive kindergartener, it sounded horrifying.

      It’s so good to hear that you had an older friend who helped you out in a what sounds like a very compassionate nonjudgmental way. Hygiene was a bit of a mystery to me to me too during the teen years.

  4. I wish I had this as a teen! When I first started the dreaded growing up process, I was shown this weird cartoon about menstruation by the special needs school nurse in primary school, which didn’t warn me that periods are a) painful b) a cause to exercise a much more rigorous hygine regime. I would dread them starting because I would forget to change my sanitary items and would start to smell as a result. Perhaps explaining to an aspie girl that maybe setting a discrete alarm on her phone to remind her to do this might be great.

    1. That’s a great idea about reminders throughout the day to help establish good hygiene for girls who are still getting used to having a period. It seems like that would establish good habits which would then become part of a routine. Or if not, they could simply be an easy way to keep track of things during what is already a stressful time. I remember being really self-conscious about whether people could know if I had my period, so openly addressing how to deal with the issue odors could helps girls who are worried about that.

      1. I became so worried about it that I changed my tampon every break time at school.. but it took 4 years before it even occurred to me that I should use a lower absorbency. lots of pain.
        Found that by far the best way for me to deal with “that time of the month” was to find the right LARC, so I simply don’t get periods and the huge hormonal shifts.

    2. That kind of makes me glad that I had really heavy periods as a kid – I pretty much had to change my pad every 3-4 hours, so I quickly got into the habit of bringing a spare with me to the bathroom and changing it every time I needed to use the bathroom. Changing my sanitary products is thus part of the “go to the bathroom” routine whenever I have my period. I probably go through sanitary products twice as fast as I really need to, but I’d rather err on the side of changing them too often.

  5. Oh, do I wish I had been talked with about these topics you raise. My high school tutor taught e about hygiene (very briefly) once my classmates had complained that I smelled. My parents’ education aobut puberty consists of showing me where ht epads were, but I had to hav emy younger sister inform me that I’d started menstruating.

    1. That sounds like a really hit or miss education (mostly miss, I guess :-( ). I know this can be a tough subject for some parents to broach but it’s sad to hear that some of us were so ill prepared.

  6. Thankyou for all that great info. I have a 15 year old Aspie daughter who in the last year has been refusing to wear a bra. Time to try some other options with winter drawing to a close. Always find reading your blogs and other readers comments really helpful.

  7. I was in an odd situation. I had full custody of my daughters for the key years of their lives (at age 11 my youngest asked to live with her mother, and I didn’t try and fight it). I was one that taught about body parts, et al, in real terms. I remember when my oldest daughter (now 24) was a newborn. Her brother was two years older and while changing his sister’s diaper I remember showing him the differences in their anatomy and used real words. My then wife was a worried that our son would repeat the clinical words. I didn’t see the problem since the words weren’t being used in a playful or silly way.

    As the kids grew, as much as it wasn’t the most comfortable topic to discuss, I did anyway. Do you remember the Judy Blume book “Deenie”? There was a part where the character would remove her scoliosis brace and take a bath… and she found her “special place” with a washcloth. That discussion in our home became known as the “washcloth talk”. I remember talking to my girls about it in a general “it’s normal, but for private time” kind of way. I also talked to them about sex, and that it feels great, but comes with an array of potential pitfalls for those that start to soon. From something as simple as a ‘broken heart’, to diseases, pregnancy and even the chance they could become crass about sex if they decided to participate before they are mature enough to handle all that comes with it.

    Most of the other needs my daughters needed in that department, they had two people (their mother and step mother) to help them out.

    1. It must have been difficult to play this role for your daughters at times, but it sounds like you handled it well. Judy Blume was a boon to girls of my generation (and many that came after). I remember how illicit her books seemed when I was growing up. Nonclinical information was scarce.

  8. Thank you, All. I began maturing in the 1950′s. Mom did explain Kotex and their belts; but even in my 20′s with my first baby’s birth, I was clueless as to how babies were born. Thank you so much. Some have mentioned things I still do; so, I will check out the link posted above for more info and see if I can learn some of the social clues things you all seem to have learned.

    1. Oh, the giant box of Kotex and those belts. Thank God for the invention of adhesive strips on pads. :-)

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. The information at the linked site is very straightforward and hopefully useful. I struggled with some hygiene issues well into my late thirties and might still be a lot worse off in that department than I am if I hadn’t had the benefit of some honest advice along the way.

  9. A very important thing is also learning to distinguish between tv/media and reality. A lack of proper explanation about any of these things you mention, means that I have learned everything about myself, my body and sexuality from tv and books. Without anyone ever explaining to me that maybe not everything is true, or has to be true for me. I am also referring to things like “all girls are ‘girly’, like pink, flowers, gossip and other ‘girly things’, must be sexy (yet not too sexy) to be considered a proper girl, and will get married to a man and have children some day. And will never learn how to park properly because only men do that.” The media tend to portray very stereotype images, that have more to do with selling products and confirming the standards than with allowing people to be themselves. If this isn’t countered with a ‘real people check’ this can lead to a lot of pressure, and wondering what is wrong with you, because you’re not like those other girls.
    I also got into some trouble with boys, because I tried to behave and clothe like girls/women on tv, but you covered that in the social skills part :)

    By the way, things like showering daily are also a personal choice. For me it’s always been very strange that all over the media is the idea that everyone showers daily, when my family bathed once a week, and washed with a washcloth every day. I have fluctuated between different frequencies of showering, based on whether I thought other people were going to ‘find out’ that I was such a ‘filthy’ person, because I am really not comfortable with showering daily. I have only recently discovered that very few people I know in real life actually shower daily, but more like every 2-3 days.

    1. Petra,
      I share your views on showering. I was raised in a household that stressed daily showers. As I went out on my own, I initially kept up the custom. Then by my 30′s I allowed myself to skip a day here and there. My job is indoors and I usually don’t work up a sweat doing it. So for the past ten years or so, I’ve showered twice about week. I’m sure my family would think it another reason to roll their eyes at me if it became a topic of discussion.

    2. Another twice-a-week bather here! Although, hygiene wasn’t really encouraged when I was growing up, so, actually, the twice-a-week is an improvement for me from how I was as a teen, I still, also, picked up on the “everyone bathes daily” vibe, and the accompanying shame. What has helped me? There are plenty of good reasons NOT to bathe every day. Your body’s natural oils are good for your skin and hair, to a certain extent, and stripping them away every day will eventually cause your body to overproduce oil (so, making it look like you DO have to bathe every day!). Don’t bathe every day, your body regulates to this, oil production is more normal, and skin and hair are healthy. :)

    3. That’s a good point about showering being a personal choice. I think one of the reasons that hygiene guides for teens emphasize daily bathing/showering is to establish it as a habit (certainly washing with a washcloth counts as daily bathing, I would think). For some autistic people, if something isn’t done as part of a daily routine, it might not get done at all. The issue might also be that teens have raging hormones and are often physically active, both of which can lead to stronger body odors than adults might experience. Since teens tend to be in close quarters with other people all day at school, body odor can be big social issue and one that the teen him/herself doesn’t notice.

      1. Yes, I realized this morning (when I was in the shower :) thinking about this post) that for some people it may be difficult to establish a routine if it’s not done every day. I have a fixed routine now, written on my bathroom mirror, of washing my face, armpits and crotch every day. The writing on the mirror really helped there :)
        And of course, children and teens are more physically active, true that. Also goes for people who are very active in terms of sport. I notice that I want to wash more now that I take long walks everyday, at least rinse my feet at the end of a walk.

        1. I often forget to shower if I don’t exercise. I also don’t necessarily feel like I need to shower on nonexercise days, especially in the winter when I generally perspire less, but then I also forget to wash up in general so . . . clearly I’m challenged in this area. :-)

      2. >>you’ll get the tried and true aspie standard: “I don’t know.”<<
        …OOF. This whole post and thread are becoming EXTREMELY relevant in the Full Spectrum household and I thank you. I always feel the "I don't know" translates somewhat to "I don't care" – and as an aspie mother of a pubescent aspie son, we are flailing a bit with WHY and HOW. Am athinking this post will help!
        thanks and love,

        1. I think sometimes I don’t know = I don’t care but sometimes it’s a true statement. My husband will often ask which it is when I seem ambivalent and often it helps just to stop and reconsider for a moment.

    4. Petra, I completely agree with you on this! Especially about what the media does. I felt pressure to go beyond the no-makeup, T-shirt and jeans I preferred wearing in my school years when I wasn’t actually going to be comfortable with that until I went to college. It was a little depressing.

      1. My family went beyond just “pressure” for it and actually started remarking that I should’ve been a boy and started employing transphobic insults at me to try to shame me into looking and acting more girly. We lived in an extremely religious conservative area and my parents themselves are quite socially reactionary, so I imagine part of it was that they didn’t want me to be trans* and part of it was that they were concerned with how I’d be treated by the community if the community thought I might be trans* or if the community thought I wasn’t acting appropriately girly (read: aspiring to anything other than barefoot kitchen work while pregnant – even women working in traditionally female jobs were frowned-upon if they worked full-time or at hours when their kids would be home). Thinking charitably, maybe they were trying to protect me from bullying by trying to get me to conform. What ended up happening was that they bullied me over my lack of suitably girly gender expression.

        I still get included in “boys” when my mother refers to “the boys” and my siblings still not-quite-jokingly refer to me as one of the guys or call me “he”. So it doesn’t always stop after high school, either.

        1. “Thinking charitably, maybe they were trying to protect me from bullying by trying to get me to conform. What ended up happening was that they bullied me over my lack of suitably girly gender expression.”
          It’s terrible, but I think a lot of what parents do to get you to conform is also to protect you against bullying. I see my sister do this with her son now. Except, of course, the best prevention against bullying is building self-esteem and this is not the way to do it.
          My parents or community were not so explicit as your family is, but it boils down to mostly the same thing. Sounds horrible.

          1. I can relate to bullying — although I hasten to add not from parents — over lack of suitable gender expression: I’ve had my share of homophobic slurs because of characteristics that are viewed as feminine (it still happens sometimes but it bothers me much less these days). It was very hurtful and confusing — especially confusing for a boy who knew he didn’t fit the expected stereotypes but had no inkling that gender wasn’t strictly binary. It left me feeling so uncertain about my own identity and afraid of failing to conform that it has taken me many years to come to terms with how I feel. It is only recently that I have begun to recognize and accept where I lie on the gender spectrum.

    5. Due to two skin conditions, I’m actually not supposed to shower daily – my skin gets extremely dry, cracked and itchy if I shower daily (even with moisturizer, and I couldn’t afford the special moisturizer I have to use on a daily basis, anyway – I’m sensitive to scents and irritants, so I have to buy expensive moisturizer that’s scent free and hypoallergenic). Plus, too much water on its own can cause a flare-up of my other skin condition. So I’ve learned ways around it, like just wetting down my hair, and only showering after exercise.

      So, yeah, definitely daily showers are a depending-on-need-and-skin-type thing. Some people, with very oily skin and strong B.O., do need daily showers. Others, like me, really shouldn’t shower daily.

      Also: For the love of all that is good, don’t shame your teen over their B.O. If your teen is used to being a showers-twice-a-week kid and then they hit puberty and their hormones go wacky and their skin becomes extremely oily and odiferous, they might not realize that they need to shower daily now because they never used to. One of my siblings had that happen – she’d always been a very girly girl, and then she hit puberty and was baffled with why her hair always looked greasy. People joked that she smelled, so she’d wear a lot of perfume which just made it worse. My parents responded by shaming her for not showering enough, and she was very upset with being called “disgusting” by our parents over her hygiene since she didn’t understand what she was doing wrong.

      She did eventually figure it out, but it probably would have gone much smoother for her if she’d been taught about how hormones can affect your skin type and hygiene needs in a gentler manner.

      And she’s allistic, so it’s not just an autistic girls thing.

      1. Oh, the shaming! Amazing how many times you see people sniggering, whispering or downright bullying or shaming someone over something that could be fixed easily if only someone said something. Especially when it comes to smell. Now that I have my diagnosis, and realize more and more how many and which things I did ‘wrong’ when I was younger, I can get so angry with people for not having said anything. And why didn’t they say anything? Probably because they were too embarassed to say something themselves…
        Lesson learned: Just. Say. It.

        1. For teachign kids in general, I find blunt-but-not-harsh is best. Euphmizing too much to “soften the blow” risks losing the message in a sea of nonsense words and wishy-washy language.

          On hygiene, I had a chat with my foster brother once, when I realized he was on the same track as my sister (she and I went through puberty at about the same time, which is why I didn’t do it for her – she hit puberty early and I hit it late, so I was figuring out the hygiene and b.o. stuff at the same time she was, but I was lucky that I don’t have very smelly b.o. or oily skin) and I didn’t want him to get made fun of by our parents so much. I said something something along the lines of this: “I know you’re used to taking only two showers a week, but now that you’re hitting puberty, your skin is changing. That makes your body make more oil and it makes your sweat smellier. The good news is that you’re growing up. The bad news is that growing up means you have to shower a bit more often so your hair isn’t greasy and you don’t smell sweaty because you might not notice sweat smell, but other people will. Know how you can tell when I’ve had gym at school because they don’t give me time to shower after? Well, I can tell when you have now, too. It kinda sucks, but growing up comes with some annoying stuff sometimes. It’s the price of a later bed time and being allowed to watch scary movies.”

          And he asked how often he should shower and I said at least every other day and after every time that he works out, and aside from a few reminders, that was the end of it. My father had already had the deodorant talk with him, so I didn’t have to do that.

    6. Another twice a week bather here too. When I remember. :) I do change into fresh clothes pretty regularly. Personal hygiene has been an issue for me in the past and remains one now though – I’m not that good about being vigilant about it. I get my hair straightened chemically once every three to four months so I don’t have to think about it – I barely even comb it, except after I’ve washed it. And I do that Aspie thing (at least I think it’s an Aspie thing) of having half-a dozen of the same type of jumper, camisole and jeans so I don’t have to expend any mental effort about what to put on – I wear the same thing every day, just a cleanish version of it. On my days off that is – for work I make a little bit more effort (I have three or four outfits I wear to work). :)

  10. Exactly. Just…perfect. I kept my struggles so secret up until I was a teenager that people struggled to understand that I was even an aspie. It was so difficult–I would break down at random times. People would tell me to get up, keep going, but I couldn’t. And don’t get me started on the horrors of deodorant.

    1. As a teen, I started with an electric razor which is a good idea for young people who have difficulties with fine motor coordination. As an adult, I shave every few days to once a week. I don’t have any sensory issues around either body hair or shaving, though others might.

      1. I don’t have sensory issues with hair removal either (I even had a “brazilian” wax once which seemed relatively painless), but I do question the social need for hair removal. I used to have beautiful downy blond hairs on my legs, until I learned that I was supposed to shave my legs. Now they’re coarse and dark. The hair on my arms is still soft and fuzzy because I never shaved those, and seriously, NOBODY notices my arms are fairly hairy until I point it out. So I wish I had never started shaving my legs, either. Then they’d still feel nice!

        1. I agree with the point you bring up. I have a problem with the social pressure to remove all body hair for women, and this is where the earlier mentioned media come in again. Media and social pressure can make you believe you are dirty if you don’t shave all over, when hair is a normal secondary sex characteristic, that current society seems to have an increasing problem with.
          Part of what autistic girls need to know is that this, again, is a personal choice. Hair removal is something they can do if they want to fit in to the beauty standard, but not someting they HAVE TO do.

          Btw, people keep saying that your hair can’t become darker by shaving, but I see/hear so many people say what you say.
          I have really dark, completely unruly hair on my legs and I am not sure it was always like this (I shaved/waxed until a year ago). Completely not the beauty standard, but I am working on accepting it anyway :)

          1. I don’t understand why people say that, when it’s obvious in boys too when they first start shaving their beards. I have a friend who never shaved during his teens and decided to let his beard grow in his twenties, and he complains that it’s not as full and firm as other guys’ beards and doesn’t grow as fast. It feels very soft and flaxen. I keep telling him to shave it regularly to “pester” it into becoming an ordinary beard but he doesn’t listen.

          2. It’s also the reason why I only did the waxing once, because… well, erm… I’m a natural redhead ;-) and some of the hair grew back blacker than before and I didn’t like that.

            1. Hair is only perceived to be thicker/darker when regrown after removal. This is caused by the ends of the hair being blunt rather than tapered. Over time, the ends of the hair will eventually become less blunt, leading to a softer feel. Also, shorter hairs always feel more wire-y than longer hairs because short hairs bend less easily. Imagine (or try this for yourself) between trying to snap a short (~2 inch/5cm) pencil into two pieces and trying to snap a longer (say, 8 inch/16cm) pencil into two pieces – the shorter pencil feels much more resistive in comparison to the longer pencil. [I can't explain in physics terms, but I think they work on similar principles?]

              As for the darker colour aspect: the new hair “looks darker” because it’s growing on skin without hair already present – which makes the hair appear darker in comparison to the colour of your skin. If you remove a strip of hair on an otherwise hairy area of similar hair tone, you can see this much more clearly. You can even run your own trials to test if it has an effect over time. :)

  11. As a college student, a young man, and someone with PDD-NOS, I wish my parents had had this advice when I was growing up. It might’ve made things a bit easier. I only disagree with you on one point, and that’s drawing examples of flirting from TV, movies, or books. Those mediums rarely present actual relationships, because they are trying to keep viewers/readers interested and use sex and everything that can lead up to it as a draw. I wouldn’t use those examples, because the unrealistic portrayals of relationships may give kids, especially kids on the spectrum, the wrong idea of how a relationship works.

    1. That’s true, media portrayals of relationships can be distorted. I think I had more of a parent-led conversation using simple examples from media in mind. There are lots of shows for tweens and teens like Degrassi that portray young people in friendships and romantic relationships that I think might be useful for a parent to use to start a discussion.

        1. I’m glad you pointed out the other side so that parents will keep that in mind when choosing examples. There are definitely plenty of shows aimed at young people that would be very inappropriate to take examples from.

          1. I can think of a few to stay away from: Glee, Scandal, Twilight. Meanwhile, Teen Wolf has some relationships I could swear are real, and The Big Bang Theory has plenty of examples of to do’s and to don’ts when it comes to dating (most of the to don’ts come from Howard Wolowitz).

            1. Definitely stay away from shows geared toward young adults. (Stay away from The CW! I love watching it but it’s hugely unrealistic.) I recommend watching the interactions between the main characters in Bones, NCIS, NCIS:LA and many TNT shows (favorites include Major Crimes and Rizzoli & Isles). Those had me identifying what a positive healthy relationship looked like and even helped me with how to talk through a problem with someone. I should warn you that they’re all crime dramas though and you probably have to follow the characters from day one to really get an idea of how friendships and relationships can develop. I also use reality shows to identify what not to do (shows with screaming) and how to explain something (cooking shows, travel, makeovers, wedding planning shows even) .

              1. Strangely, many of the crime dramas I follow spend a lot of effort on developing their characters’ relationships, so you do get the angsty romance drama (esp. At the end of a season) but you also get people coexisting and working together, maybe even as friends, and despite their personality differences.

  12. I don’t know any autistic people so may I ask how they are with humor? I know that’s a generalization but I’m sure there is a commonality there. Your post sounds awfully serious and I suggest throwing in a humorous approach to this. Life is so inexplicable anyway that there’s no point in teaching it as a law course.

    1. It really depends on the person, but many autistic people can be quite literal so I don’t think humor would be helpful if it was in the form of sarcasm or anything that could be misinterpreted if taken literally. But certainly a light or casual tone could be appropriate for certain families, depending on the parent-child relationship and personalities.

      1. Yes. You really don’t want your child to misunderstand you on issues of sexuality, just because you wanted to be lighthearted about it. Joking together about some of the things your child experiences is probably OK after you’re absolutely sure he or she understands the practical issues, but I wouldn’t have appreciated my mother or father making jokes about my body or sexuality back when I was 13,14. It was far too confusing and frightening. And besides, funny parents are embarrassing at that age. So there’s that as well. :P

          1. Usually humor is something people hid behind in such talks. You want to be frank, direct and concrete with someone on the spectrum. I’d advise against using humor. If you have a good enough rapport you don’t need it. If you don’t it’ll probably just confuse your message (and it’s intended recipient).

  13. Very well thought through, it’s nice to see these kinds of posts more and more. Society doesn’t often do enough to advise those who may need a little extra help through this kind of media. Very nice :)

  14. I know you mention education on personal space, but I felt it was the opposite of the situation I have (and had growing up). I generally do not like being touched; I hardly even enjoy hugging my family members because it feels really weird. There are exceptions, but I really have to like you before I consider even giving you a friendly clap on the shoulder. As a result, I misinterpreted actions such as hugging a lot (and it was a thing to hug each other in band). It also made moving to Miami very difficult, as there is a lot of platonic touching in the communities there (primarily among the Latino populations, but it migrated to other groups as well). I went along with these things because I assumed they were normal, but I kind of wished I had been given some information on how to let people know I do not want to be touched. Heck, I still wish I had that. It would save me some startled yelping when a co-worker claps me on the shoulder or neck with no warning. But still, I think a variety of signals (direct and more polite) might be helpful for anyone on the spectrum who has personal space boundaries that are way larger than typical.

    1. That’s a great point. Personal space goes both ways and having some simple scripts for warding off unwanted social touching is a good idea. I’m not a fan of hugging people I don’t know well and I’ve found that in many cases, offering my hand before the other person has a chance to move in for a hug is a good preemptive gesture. Some people might be a little put off by it but a simple “I’m just not a hugger” accompanied by a smile seems to be explanation enough for most.

      Have you tried saying something to your coworkers who startle you? Maybe something like “oh gosh, I”m so easily startled – please let me know if you’re going to do that” would make them think twice? I guess it depends on the person as to whether they would get the hint that you don’t want to be touched unexpectedly.

  15. Thank you for a wonderful post. I’m 32 and wasn’t diagnosed with Aspergers until this past year. I was lucky enough to have a mother who isn’t shy about answering questions or explaining about puberty. She explained most things, from my first underarm hair to using sanitary products.
    I wasn’t comfortable wearing anything other than a sports bra through my teens, and she never forced anything on me. But to this day, I have never been properly fitted for a bra. Even in my 30s I’m not overly comfortable in a regular bra, and forget an underwire! I either go “free” or wear a bra that is thin (and soft) & fits more like a sports bra.
    As for sanitary products, I only used pads until I was 21 years old. Finally I figured out tampons in college. It’s not that my mom wouldn’t show me, I was just fine with using pads. Putting a tampon in felt very weird to me in my teens.

    1. It sounds like your mom did a great job explaining things and being open with you. Your comment really reinforces the idea that if parents aren’t shy about discussing things then their children will not only be well informed but they’ll likely feel less awkward about asking questions, etc.

      Bras are definitely a hot topic on this post! For years I avoided underwires until I found an underwire bra that fit properly and was well made, both of which make a huge difference in comfort. I’m still a minimalist in terms of fabric though.

  16. Nice blog- flirting gets gets even more confusing as you get older… I just got married and I was still confused … as bras go I have yet to find one that’s comfortable… I don’t know if that ever changes.

    1. I’m 44 and I’m still confused too! :-) I’ve had good luck finding more comfortable bras as I’ve gotten older. I’m not sure if my sensitivities have changed or if I just finally happened to find a style that I like.

  17. I found your post from the “freshly pressed” selection on wordpress.com I’m a dad of a son who’s about to hit puberty and we’re bracing for that. Reading this really put things into perspective as how much different puberty can be for girls, and seems like it’s especially difficult for girls who are on the Autistic spectrum,. Thank you.

        1. Actually, I think it might be quite difficult to clue them in about the way girls behave … especially when he is heterosexual, and wants to be like the other guys. The way boys are raised in our Western societies is getting quite disturbing as well. They’re supposed to be really tough, not appear homosexual, not show ‘weakness’ and treat girl like objects (at least, that’s what ‘the media’ tell him, and I hope you tell him that’s not the case).
          But then when they have a girlfriend (again, if they are hetero) they suddenly have to show her emotions and know how to react to hers… must be very confusing.
          When he is not heterosexual, of course it’s totally off the chart.

  18. Thanks for this blog! My 15 yo daughter definitely has the hormonal scary issues. We (both she and I) have decided that it is the conflicting “autistic wanting to follow the rules and be good” versus the “teen wanting to rebel and break the rules” clash within her that makes it more volatile (and confusing). Not a fun time!

  19. Great post…
    definitely worth many shares…
    Right from the basics, the information given is perfect and suitable for girls and their parents around the world.
    Thumbs up !!

  20. Well said! I am a therapist and I deal with this “change” a lot. This seems to be a hard time for parents, too. They show up in my office with family issues. Things change so rapidly and abruptly that the parents aren’t always sure what to do. The baby they have parented for several years becomes something different altogether over night. Your post is very enlightening and gives folks a plan, great job!

    http://jwolffblog.wordpress.com/

  21. I am not autistic, nor are my children..but I wish my parents had had this checklist when I was a teenage girl. I am glad to have it for reference for my current (16yr old) son, and my eventual teenage daughter (6). Thank you for posting!

  22. Take care of your teenagers, never let an AS teenager to get information from adult content sources… That type of content is bad for NT too but in AS teenager causes damage in a level you can’t imagine. I was an AS teen and unfortunately found that type of content by accident and my life turned a HUGE mess. Please talk to your AS teens don’t let them learn from the wrong sources.

    1. I agree very much. My ‘sexual education’ also consisted of reading adult books I found, what I knew about relationships came from drama and soap series. Wrong sources, leading to a big mess, still fixing the damage.
      In general, as I mentioned before, parents should make sure that AS teens are aware of the fact that internet, tv, radio, all kinds of media, present a picture that is sensational and/or commercial. I realize now, at 35 how much of my view of myself, other people and the world in general has been skewed because I took those things at heart, never having had a ‘proper’ explanation about things.

      1. Which is why my mother rocks. When she caught me reading erotic literature from their book collection (I was about 11 or 12), she asked me if I was aware of it being fantasy and not real, and told me that real sex was very different from how it was described in those books. And she let me keep the books. I felt embarrassed but looking back it was an excellent way to deal with it.

  23. I wish someone had gone over all of these things with me. I am 48 and much of what you wrote is still a mystery to me. Don’t get me started on fashion topics. I guess it’s a good thing I have a son who has his own fashion sense. Not to mention he strongly indicated that he hated my taste in clothing as early as 3 years old. The good thing…you’re never to old to learn. Delightful post. :-)

    1. Fashion! It baffled me to no end that first I was teased about combing red and pink (the rules in my head still say ‘clashing’), and then people were wearing that combination and it was ‘in’… sigh… :) Actually the grunge period helped me with that, this aestetic of heavy boots with flowery dresses cured me right off of this kind of weird (to me) thinking that things are pretty or ugly based on what’s in fashion magazines. I can imagine that a son like that helps too :D

    2. I have no idea where my daughter gets her fashion sense, but I call her up and ask for her advice when I need to look good. :-) And I agree with you on how much of a mystery this stuff is – I only learned some of it recently too.

  24. There is one thing I would like to add. If your autistic girl becomes sexually active at some point, I think that in addition to providing options for protection, you would have to really emphasize that some could cause side effects and more changes that could be uncomfortable. The only side effect I had been told about for The Pill, for example, was that I could run the risk of blood clots, but I wish that they had told me that it was the only confirmed side effect they knew about and that there might be more than that because The Pill is designed to mess with your hormones.

    1. Excellent point! The Pill did horrible things to my hormones, much moreso than I was aware of at the time because it was such a raging nightmare. It’s important to keep in mind that many autistic people process medications differently from typical people, especially things designed to work on the hormones and other regulatory chemicals in the body.

  25. I don’t know if this will help anyone, but when I couldn’t get used to my bra, mom said wear it longer. I don’t recall if she said sleep on it or not, but anyhow I got used to sleeping in them and still do (in my 30s). I Never wore the lacy types. I had brightly colored looney tune Bras I Loved as a teen – cause I’m visual and the designs made me happy. I still like nice colors and soft or thin fabrics- and like you all, I’m not a shower 7 days a week person. I’m highly irritable about being naked/temperature sensitive. If the air is too cold or the water is too cold or too hot, I quickly develop asthmatic fits. Now I live alone, I shower or get washed 5 days a week, when I work, and I give myself the freedom to just be comfortable on weekends- that is Wonderful. Sometimes I do shower on the weekends too, sometimes I know a shower is too much stress- cold air on the skin, too much varying temps. .etc. Even just putting my hands in cold water is stressful, so is waiting for water to warm up. . . I have issues with body hair removal too. There is no acceptability publicly for a woman to be natural. As a teen I wanted to be like everybody else so bad, so I kept up with it a bit. (I had an electric razor) But I quickly grew out of that. I have sensitive dry skin, very prone to razor bumps.. . .I find life much more comfortable without it- and it isn’t anybody else’s business. I wear long pants and t shirts so it shouldn’t matter. At several points in the summer I will try to fit in- but then the irritation and redness and bumps return and it’s just easier not to.

    1. I guess a lot of women sleep in their bras – there was a poll on Tumblr a while back and I noticed it was about 2-1 for don’t versus do.

      I know exactly what you mean about the change of temperature being jarring and uncomfortable. Now that the cooler temps are here, showering is less appealing, especially if I’m nice and warm already.

  26. Oh, I could have so needed this. While I did get the not-being-stinky part, I simply had no idea how to KNOW if my hair needed washing. It took me ages to actually realize that my hair wasn’t weird, simply greasy. And nobody ever told me – some even tried to play it off when I asked questions. I remember a talk with my sister (whom I believe to be neurotypical) about a photo we had taken in school, and how she said she liked it, and I asked if my hair looked greasy in it, and she simply said “Well, yeah. Always does.” I then started to religiously wash my hair every single day, which of course didn’t help either. I’m at a every-other-day-basis right now.

    What I would have loved is a talk about what gossip is. Because for me it was perfectly normal to relay what people had said about others and I thought I was being helpful. And this thing with more secrets and dishonesty confused me to no end. As a kid, I was blunt to the point of being cruel. I just carried on with it when I got older and got confused when people kept contradicting themselves.

    Also – what type of touching conveys what? While I can’t deal with people I don’t like in my personal space, I jump between all cuddly and get off me with people I do like. On a good day, I lean on people. It grounds me, it’s soothing. Got me into a lot of trouble at times.

    And am I the only one who has the habit of trying to make rules out of what I observe to make sense of things? Which is why “No means no” got me into a lot of trouble. Because if so, doesn’t Yes mean yes as well? I at that moment started to believe that the moment I had consented I had to go through with it. I since then have started to use “Stop is Stop”, also as a general rule with my friends, which is much more understandable for me.

    1. “Because for me it was perfectly normal to relay what people had said about others and I thought I was being helpful.”

      THIS. This is what kept getting me into trouble all through my teens and twenties. I mean, I struggled with other things as well, but the really huge nasty sort of trouble was always about this.

      I can’t remember any rules I tried to formulate off the top of my head, but I do have a tendency to be very rigid about promises people make. That was the way I tried to make sense of things. I didn’t realise that people sometimes made promises they *knew* they couldn’t keep. I still don’t do it myself, because I think it creates false expectations. But I’ve learned how to accept it (a little bit) from others.

    2. Personal hygiene: I do remember being teased about being dirty at elementary school, not after that. But in general there was a constant ‘apparently doing something wrong that seemed obvious to everyone, yet no-one would explain’.
      The gossip thing is very recognizable, it never occurred to me that relaying information could be gossiping, either.
      I also definitely make rules out of things I see. Then to me that is the way the world works, and if the world then turns out to work differently it is very confusing. Also, as autisticook mentioned, promises are promises. It just generally confused the hell out of me that people say one thing and mean something else. Very autistic. (which is actually why I preferr the autistic way, really. at least you know where you stand)

      The ‘no is no’ therefor ‘yes is yes’ is also very recognizable, although not limited to ASD. A lot of woman and girls tend to feel (in a sexual situation) that when they have consented they have to go through with it. ‘stop is stop’ is very good!

    3. I’ve finally solved all of my hair issues by cutting it all off. As a kid, I had long curly hair that was perpetually tangled and snarled to the point that my mother would need to spend an hour or more with detangler and a whole set of brushes and combs to get it under control.

      All of the things you mention here are great points. Stop is stop is a good rule, especially for anyone who is very literal. I have the same “yes means yes” problem in general. Once I commit to something, I usually feel like I have to do it no matter what. I’m glad you shared this, because there are a lot of parents who might not see the opposite side of “no means no”.

  27. “I’m 44, fairly intelligent . . . and I still have only the vaguest idea of what flirting looks like in action.” Me too, and then some! In my 40s now and I have never had even the faintest notion how to flirt, and the occasions when men have tried it with me have just made me feel uncomfortable (when I managed to spot that that’s what they were trying to do, that is). Sad, but true. Actually I wish it were otherwise because it makes getting through the first door of relationships so much easier. :(

      1. No worries! There aren’t really any rules on commenting here.

        It seems like if we know some basic rules of flirting, it should be easy to spot, but I never know if someone is flirting or just being casually nice. I started wearing my wedding band again about a year ago and noticed that the need to discern between the two has dropped significantly, so maybe most of it was flirting after all. :-D

  28. Wow, I’ve just discovered at the age of 41 that not everyone showers daily and that it’s okay not to! I was brought up to have a bath every day (my parents aren’t the showering types) and when I moved out that became a daily shower instead. Having said that, I find showers a good way to de-stress and will often have a shower in the evening if I’m feeling like I’m struggling. I think it’s the warmth (and the fact that I have music in there so I can sing). But if I don’t have a shower in the morning I seem to have a really bad hair day – it just feels all wrong on my head.
    I’m still waiting for my mum to talk to me about sex :) We did the whole periods talk but she sat me down with my sister who was 3 years older so I think most (all) went over my head. It certainly didn’t make much sense. But then my mum wasn’t the sort you could talk to about anything. It took me ages to tell her I wanted a bra. (And not long to work out that me and bras just don’t get on, but a fair amount of teasing from my sister)

    1. I use showers to destress too – often in the middle of the day, since I’m fortunate enough to work at home and have that luxury. :-)

      Bras didn’t turn out to be all they were cracked up to be, did they? I envy women who can get away without wearing them. So ironic that we were all anxious to be old enough to wear one and then spend the rest of our lives resenting the darn things.

  29. I would never have gotten this from my mother. I’m increasingly certain that she’s autistic due to her attitudes about social relationships when I was younger. She had no clue and was negative about them.

    1. I think it can be really hard for autistic parents to pass on information about social skills. I wish I’d known earlier that I was autistic so I could have taken that into account in raising my daughter . . .

  30. I just came upon this – a great read. I have a 13 year old daughter with moderate to severe autism. Puberty has definitely been a challenge and between the article and all of the comments posted, I am able to see where we are doing things right, where we need to make some adjustments as well as other areas we hadn’t even considered. I’ve signed up to receive your blog updates via email. Though my daughter is not an Aspie, you’ve already given me a lot of insight and I see the struggles she is currently going through in the experiences I see posted in the comments. I appreciate that, as it’s not something that has been easy to find. So thank you!! I look forward to reading more!!

    1. Puberty can be especially hard on autistic teens and I was surprised at how little information is out there. I’m glad you’re finding my experiences and all of the comments helpful in understanding what your daughter is going through!

  31. Just want to add that I found out that deodorant, sunscreen, scented personal hygene products, and scented shampoo and conditioner, was causing me headaches and problems sleeping! I know not a lot of people will read all the way down here, but just thought I should highlight that. If someone has real problems with deodorant, don’t force it! Just shower every day and use baby powder instead.

  32. How on earth do I tell my daughter all these things about flirting and such when I still don’t know them myself (Autist mother here) :p

    1. I completely share this frustration. I have no idea how I’m going to explain all of that, because there are things like this that I never learned, and then there are things that I did eventually learn, but it was years after the fact before I figured out what x REALLY meant.

      So it’s definitely a struggle, though not an insurmountable one. I’d say just do the best you can and explain that you aren’t always sure when someone shows interest in you/you’re accidentally showing interest in someone else.

      1. Same here. Luckily, husband picked up some of the slack and somehow my nonautistic daughter figured out the rest. She zoomed right by me in terms of understanding body language and social cues and is now the one I ask for advice.

        I think as the autistic parent of an autistic child, though, there is some advantage in being able to understand which stuff is going to be especially hard and will require extra work. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, you’ll have the experience of knowing what you found hard and can address things from that perspective.

        1. This is so very true – knowing that there will be extra work and planning for that is really essential

  33. My whole life, I knew I was “different” when it came to sex (I never “got” all the sex jokes and references in high school, sex scenes in movies always grossed me out / made me feel awkward, and I never knew how to answer “why don’t you have a boyfriend? Are you a lesbian?”). I have never been in a romantic or sexual relationship (nor wanted to) and finally realized I was an aromantic asexual sometime in my twenties. I have since become active on AVEN and other forums for asexuals. Seems like asexuality tends to be more common in those with autism from the (informal) research I’ve done, and it’s such a relief to have other aces to talk to (several of whom are fellow Aspies)!

  34. I would like to add that it’s important to talk about when physical changes don’t go normally. When I first went through puberty, my period was irregular, and I mentioned this to my doctor. She told me that it sometimes was irregular in the beginning, not to worry, but didn’t say anything else about what it could be, and I never mentioned it again. My mom never really had “the talk” with me; she just put pads in my underwear drawer periodically. I’m not sure what would help, but I think that giving some indication of what “normal” is in puberty, and what to do and who to talk to if things aren’t normal. A period that lasts about a week, and happens once a month is normal. A period that lasts 3 weeks, and happens once every 4-9 months is not.

    1. That’s a great point – thank you for adding it. I would also add mentioning that things like discharge, burning or pain in the genital area aren’t normal and could be a sign of an infection or illness. Some girls might mistake warning-sign pain or burning for cramps or abnormal discharge as part of menstruation if they aren’t specifically advised otherwise.

  35. My mother was a very clean person. If she suspected there was a reason why any of us weren’t grooming enough, she found a way to fix it so we would groom appropriately. I never had any issues as a kid or teen, but I do now as an adult with underwear and my mother agrees with me on my decision to switch to boxers. For one thing, loose clothes lets your body air out more, panties are prone to making you stinky because it traps sweat and stuff! And we live in Alabama, lots of sweating going on here in the summer.

    My mother was very upfront and we had extensive “the talks” (which I found out later was because I was disturbingly curious). But clothes was an issue. Girly clothes were so painful and uncomfortable, I’d wear loose and boy clothes. She didn’t think I’d ever marry because I didn’t dress remotely feminine. Add in the fact I got a LOT of negative attention no matter how much I made sure to not present myself as “attractive”, (if you’re in your sixties you have no business chasing a teenager you sicko), and it really is a wonder I married. But, my husband’s first compliment was my intelligence, not my body, so I kept him and he has therefore earned the right to see my girly side.

    Yes, I know the numb legs. The strange tingling, the highly reduced mobility with added twitchiness because they aren’t functioning correctly. Sometimes there’d be pain, but I always assumed the dizziness and numbness was from blood loss. I guess I do have some pain issues… And that awful smell the hygiene products have before and after use! Half my nausea comes from the smell of those things.

    I had noticed somewhere that Aspie girls were more likely to identify as androgynous. Some may be accepting of the change from an androgynous being as a kid to an obviously female being, but for some of us it was a bit traumatic for our bodies to turn against us and the thought of being female was very revolting. You might want to check into some additional patience and support if the kid shows signs of a crisis of gender identity, at the very least to try and curb the resulting self loathing.

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