Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trouble Shooting Puberty

This particular post will be a little vague to protect Elise from embarrassment in the future, but I felt like the general specifics needed to be shared due to some surprised exclamations I received lately when spontaneously discussing it naturally with other parents of kids with varying disabilities.

Puberty is a giant war against crazy.  Seriously.  Add incomprehension and sensory issues in the pot and PTSD is unavoidable.  Truly, and NOT being disrespectful to veterans.

My personality default is to trouble shoot.  To the detriment of friendships at times...and to the redemption of relationships sometimes...go figure.  Parenting is a humongous exercise in trouble shooting and sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong, and a WHOLE lot of prayer.

Puberty was weird enough my first go round, with a typical son.  When faced with my darkest fear, a GIRL...well...I did what I always do...I made lists in my head of how I would handle things.  Then revamped them...over and over and nauseam.

When it became clear that Elise was going to go into it with a lowered mental age, limited communication, and raging sensory issues, I decided that I was going to handle it with as little stress as possible.  To do that, I decided that nothing could start as a time duress situation.  I was going to have to ease into everything slowly and WAAAAAAAY early, so I didn't happen into any surprises without wiggle room.

So, when she got all flippy dippy about her leg hairs in her leggings a couple of years ago, I started shaving her legs about once a week to week and a half, with a Schick Intuition.  No risk to cut herself, no shaving cream sensory gags (which I tried about 3 weeks ago, and she fell completely apart), and no pressure.  It was all on her terms.  Now that it is obvious when she needs to, its already an established routine and it's not a big deal to up the frequency a bit.

I handled the bra transition the same way.  I started letting her wear my exercise bras and the super stretchy sleep bras for fun.  Then I had her wear them to school once or twice a week, and then everyday.  And, again, now that it is no longer negotiable for modesty, she loves them and they are an established routine.

Deodorant, even.  I offered it to her when she was watching me get ready a few times, and she giggled and gagged.  Then I started asking her to put it on after a bath about once a week.  We are up to every bath, now, and she rarely needs it...but it is already established, with a scent that she loves, and we are poised, ready as soon as it becomes a daily non-negotiable.

Elise will be 13 at the end of this month and the most stereotypical aspect of puberty is looming, her period.  I mentioned how thankful I was for Willow being in heat for taking away the panic at its discovery last year. It will be any time now, so I have also been very proactive in trouble shooting for that rather huge adjustment.  I have fully anticipated that she will not handle it well, so I wrote into her IEP last year that when she starts, she will stay home that week.  My stance on that is "I don't hate anyone enough to make them deal with that." 

I have been trying to figure out how I was going to mediate that week for about a year.  Pads are dodgey and hot and bunchy for a person with typical sensory thresholds...and trying to face that with someone who loses her mind at seams in her socks and still gags watching anyone put on chapstick...well,it is daunting at best.  So, I have been trying to sort my way around that for quite some time.  I decided one day at the grocery that Poise incontinence unders would be a stellar option.  Nothing independently problematic.  TA-DA.  Except that they are hot and big.  Oh, well.  And then I got a advertisement in my Facebook feed thanks to my natural food "Like"s for THINX underwear.  But as lovely an idea as they are, they don't make the kind of unders Elise prefers AND they cost a FORTUNE.  And a few months later, I accidentally bumped into cloth menstrual pads.  They can be made in any length, shape, or fabric.  I messaged a very lovely lady on Etsy with ALL of my questions.  And not only did Denelle answer them, she sent a couple of pads for Elise to try and use to decide on her favorite fabrics.  Elise LOVES them, unlike the disposable one I made her try as well...which she gagged and retched and whined about.  And so, I have a nice little stash of pads that she wears around the house periodically...and which she brags about to her sisters who are now desperately jealous.  I can confidently say that we got all the transition of technical crazy out of the way, and we can deal with the normal, hormonal crazy head on.  While you may not be as comfortable as me, since I opted to cloth diaper my two youngest...I just share this because I know that most people don't realize there are other options out there...And I know how loathe I was to realize that I wasn't going to get out of this transition, and so I needed to act in a manner that would make it all easier on all of us.

If you have any questions on any of this, as usual, feel free to message me or email me, and I will answer anything that I can.


  1. "...which she wheres around the house periodically..." Was that pun intended??? Sorry, couldn't resist. I like the idea of the cloth pads. It is sort of a cruel fact of life that kids with intense sensory needs have to go through the pains of puberty, especially if they can't fully understand what is happening. I also like the idea of letting her stay home during the weeks that she has her period. Working as a teacher's aide, I've had to change quite a few menstrual pads... but I hate the thought of being in the opposite position and being the girl with the teacher changing her pad. It seems too intimate.

    1. I didn't catch that inadvertent pun! Lol!

      But, yes, independence is as valuable for its protection as much for its own value!!

  2. Great informational post. Beth doesn't have sensory issues so wearing pads hasn't been a problem. I prayed - hard - before Beth started, hoping it would happen on a quiet Saturday when we were both at home. It did! We spent time in the bathroom and talked about everything she would need to do. The next morning she woke up and from the bathroom I hear, "Mom!" When I went in she pointed to the spot on her pad and said, "Not again!" She was hoping 'once and I'm done.' :)