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Helping Children With Autism Learn Menstrual Hygiene Skills

Written by: Joshua Sleeper

Developing feminine hygiene skills is important in helping children care for their bodies and in maintaining their dignity and independence, especially during puberty. However, the physical and emotional changes that accompany this time can often be a challenging experience for children with autism. If your child is approaching puberty, and especially the start of their menstrual cycle, here are some tips that will help you and your family support your child as they learn feminine hygiene skills.

Anticipate Changes

Changes to a child’s body that happen during puberty can be a stressful experience for individuals with autism. You can help your child understand puberty, and how to care for their body, by anticipating these changes before they happen. For example, teaching your child about menstruation throughout the month, and not only during their cycle, can provide practice and constant, consistent training in developing feminine hygiene skills.

Develop A Plan

While helping your child to understand puberty is a helpful step, it’s also important to develop a plan to teach important menstrual hygiene skills. For example, using an evidence-based teaching technique called chaining can help break down an ideal behavior into small, teachable units. Developing a plan that leverages chaining can help individuals with autism feel comfortable with mini-tasks before ‘chaining’ all tasks together. Your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at Trumpet can help you break down feminine hygiene skills into these small tasks.

Practice Patience

Using chaining to teach hygiene skills can involve a long list of steps that takes several weeks, or even a few months, to accomplish. Menstrual hygiene care, in particular, is a complicated process that takes lots of planning and decision making. So while it’s important to be patient and recognize that learning these skills takes time, you should also keep a steady forward momentum for your child. Your ABA therapist can help you determine when your child is ready to move forward in your list of steps.

Incorporate A Team

Puberty brings an enormous amount of social, physical, and emotional changes to your child’s life, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in supporting them through these changes. Behavior analysts can help teach hygiene skills through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, and they can collaborate with your child’s pediatrician, gynecologist, and occupational therapist to provide expertise through a diverse support team. By bringing this team of experts together, TBH supports your child and you, as parents, throughout the process of teaching feminine care.

Be Flexible

Most of all, it’s important to remember that your child is experiencing a lot of physical, emotional, and hormonal changes. These are difficult changes for every child to understand and deal with! You can support your child during their menstrual cycle by making sure they have access to pain relievers, like heating pads and Midol, and by encouraging additional self-care activities, like taking a walk. By ensuring your child has the support and resources they need, you can help them develop not only hygiene skills, but also a sense of independence and dignity as they learn to care for their bodies.

Contact us to learn more about helping your child learn these important menstrual hygiene skills.