Parenting

Calling All Parents of Girls

When Talia was little I never could picture her growing up. But now she’s a full-fledged teen. And all of a sudden we’re dealing with adolescence and hormones and body changes layered on top of autism. Of course every kid is different. Luckily, Talia has a sunny optimistic personality–and that eases the way for us. But navigating everything from bras to periods to zits is tricky and relentless. And who do you talk to about this stuff?

Good news everyone—I found a great resource for us.

If you’re the parent of a girl with ASD (or other developmental disabilities) check out “Girls Growing up on the Autism Spectrum—What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-Teen and Teenage Years” by Shana Nichols with Gina Moravcik and Samara Pulver Tetenbaum (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009).

This book feels like a lifeline for me. It’s inclusive–talking about girls across the spectrum (classic autism, pdd-nos and Asperger’s Syndrome). Blending research, family stories and the authors’ experiences as psychologists and professionals, it offers insights and advice on tough topics such as:

-Bras: How to find them, fit them, and convince your teen to wear them. (How on earth do you teach kids how to do them up??)

-Menstruation: How to get ready for this and cope with the nitty gritty.

-Pelvic Exams—How to prepare your child and get through it.

-Sex ed: What to tell and how……

-Dating: How to structure and support your daughter’s dates (Dates?! Yikes!)

And the list goes on.

The book also includes ideas about helping girls develop self-esteem, social skills and safety. In the chapter “Keeping Girls Safe: Promoting Personal Safety in the Real World” the authors present horrific stats about abuse and females with cognitive disabilities. They quote one national study that found between 39 to 83% of females with a developmental disability will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.

Thankfully they also include abuse prevention strategies that we can teach our daughters at home. After reading this book, perhaps we’ll have a tool to advocate for life skills and personal safety courses at school and in the community.

This book feels so validating for me. But I also feel overwhelmed. There are endless important skills that I should be teaching my daughter. And it’s hard to know where to begin. I think I’ll put the book away for a bit, re-read it and set some goals.