Menstruation or periods can be a touchy subject even with a typically developing child. Autism doesn’t mean that normal bodily functions take a sabbatical. Girls with autism still get their monthly periods. Menstruation still comes as puberty approaches. Being proactive means having a plan in place before it happens so that it becomes a less traumatic experience for everyone involved. I have a girl (not with autism) so I turned to my Facebook page for advice from other warrior mamas on what works for them.
Normally , I’m not a fan of social stories. Our kids think so literal that they can’t generalize enough to deviate from the story. They think that the only outcome has to be the one they have practiced in the story. In this situation, a social story would fit the bill. Getting your period is pretty much the same every time. One Place For Special Needs has every story you could ever come up with complete with videos that will go over every facet of menstruation.
Calm and straight forward is always the best approach when dealing with anything with autism. It’s the same approach I take with my typically developing child. Your child may be out of sorts. As with everything with children in general, they feed off your emotions. By remaining calm and being straight forward about it, your girl will learn that it’s no big deal. She will learn to approach it matter of factly as a monthly event that is part of being female. It’s a lesson all of us who are female must learn.
Just because you are approaching it matter of factly doesn’t mean that you can’t do several things to make it memorable as well as easier to navigate.
- becoming a young lady package : pads, book , chocolate, heating pad
- different sized pads , different textures to find what fits best, fabric ones for sensory issues
- extra packs of underwear
- The Care and Keeping of You, The Period Book, Girls Guide to Growing Up, Teaching Children with Down Syndrome About their bodies, boundaries and sexuality, Taking Care of Myself (can create personalized stories for your child)
- Cottonelle Wipes, or Shitens for keeping her personal areas clean and odor free
- track cycle to mentally prepare (calendar, Period Tracker app)
Thinx period panties make a great alternative to having to worry about the use of feminine hygiene products with your girl. For those who are non verbal or moderate to severe, this is a great option . The panties are designed to hold the flow of menstruation. There are different panties that hold different amounts. Madison and I each got a pair to try out. The only thing I would recommend is to get one size larger than you think you need. I got the size from the chart but it rolls down a bit on my fat rolls . Sorry for the personal information. Just trying to help you make a good choice.
Evening primrose is very useful for cramps and to control heavy bleeding. You can get it in softgels or in oil form if your girl doesn’t swallow pills. Either way will work just the same. Evening primrose is an essential fatty acid that is also an anti inflammatory . Both things are great for hormones and period related cramps. Evening primrose oil may interact with painkillers so make sure you check with your doctor before you mix the two things.
Both Madison and I use essential oils when we have menstruation problems. Clary sage oil can be used during your menstrual cycle. Rub three to five drops on the abdomen for a soothing massage. Cypress oil improves circulation so it helps keep cramps at bay. I keep both these oils on hand at all times.
Just like you have a visual schedule for bathroom duties like brushing teeth and taking a shower, you can have one for what to do when menstruation occurs. If necessary print out each step individually for her to follow when she needs it. Laminate and keep it in the bathroom.
For the severely affected person with autism there are more drastic approaches. Some caregivers have opted to have their girl get the depo provera shot or take birth control pills to limit the menstruation that the disabled person has. While I don’t recommend these options, I will not pass judgment if that’s what the choice turns out to be for your situation. I would hope that you prayerfully consider if this is the best option.
I hope that you find this helpful for navigating autismland with your girl as she enters puberty. Life with an older child with autism brings new challenges . They aren’t more or less difficult than the challenges of when they are younger. They are just different. Preparing for these challenges makes life more manageable for all involved. Autismland already brings surprises. This shouldn’t be one of them.