It was clear from the start that this was going to be a direct, honest, and practical workshop. Mark began by saying that however much we may wish it isn’t going to happen, even neurodiverse children and young people will go through puberty. Puberty is part of being a human being. Autism or ADHD does not change this fact, nor does it protect our children and young people from the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with adolescence. So, puberty WILL happen, and it’s our job as parent / carers to prepare our children and young people as best we can.

“Yes, it can feel scary. But don’t be frightened. Turn that fear into something positive! Put that fear into helping your children develop the skills they need.”

Dr Mark Brown

Mark explained that one of the most important things we can do as parent/carers is to overcome our own embarrassment. Get comfortable using the language associated with bodies, puberty and adult relationships, start to openly talk about these things if you aren’t already. Plan ahead, do your own research, have information packs ready.

It’s not unusual for children as young as 7 or 8 to start to show signs of puberty so it is never too early to start to prepare. Mark explained that the first signs will often be emotional rather than physical. You may start to see more emotional outbursts than usual which could well be a sign that hormones are starting to kick in. Of course, sometimes it can be harder to spot emotional signs with our children – you know them best so always follow your gut instinct!

This was a workshop jam packed full of information and advice. As one of our parent/carers commented, especially with a subject like this it was “fabulous to feel part of a welcoming group where I can feel comfortable to participate and ask whatever questions I needed to”.

We covered all sort of topics including relationships, consent, sexuality, friendships (intimate and not), and – the highlight for many parent/carers – urinal etiquette. Mark explained that one of the biggest challenges for teenage boys is the unwritten rules of using public urinals. It’s not something that tends to be taught, it’s something that boys are just sort of expected to pick up. But for our children it is especially useful to explicitly teach them as you would many other skills.

There were a number of tools that Mark flagged up such as the Circle of Relationships.

And there were also a number of tips. For example, think about how your neurodiverse young person may interpret language and instructions. Mark told a story about a young lad who was struggling with body odour despite using deodorant every day. It turned out that he had been told to spray the deodorant underneath each arm. And that’s what he was doing – his literal interpretation of this instruction was to spray underneath his arm and as a result he was not directing it at his armpit.

This workshop really is a must for any parent/carer starting to think about puberty, adolescence and the teenage years. The earlier you start to lay the groundwork and teach and talk about friendships and relationships as a pre-cursor to any subsequent teaching and talking about physical and intimate relationships the better.

“This has been an eye opener for me. Thanks so much, it has been incredibly useful.”

“Before this workshop I felt woefully under prepared to help my children through puberty. The whole discussion was useful to identify the areas that we may need to consider in the upcoming months and years.”

As always a big thank you for Dr Mark Brown for coming to speak to our parents/carers.

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