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Autism and Puberty: Embracing Change Together

As we embark on this journey together through the ever-changing landscape of growth and development, there's a particular chapter that deserves our special attention – and that chapter is puberty. This time of transformation can be a whirlwind of emotions and changes, not just for our kids but for us as well. For those of us nurturing children with autism, this chapter brings its unique set of challenges and experiences.

Autistic teenage boy looking at the camera sucking on his hand

You might be feeling a mix of anticipation and anxiety, wondering how your child will navigate the complexities of puberty with autism. You're not alone in these feelings. Many parents and caregivers share similar concerns and questions. Puberty is a universal experience, yet it unfolds differently for each individual, especially for those on the autism spectrum.

Our children might find the physical, emotional, and social shifts more intense or confusing. But here's the heartening news: with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, we can guide our children through this pivotal period with love and support.

This blog post is a warm hug and a reassuring pat on the back for you. It's here to say, "Yes, there are challenges, but together, we've got this." We'll dive into understanding what makes puberty a unique experience for those with autism, identify the hurdles you might face, and, most importantly, share practical and effective ways to navigate this journey.

So, let's take this step together, armed with compassion and knowledge, ready to support our amazing kids as they grow and flourish. Here's to embracing change, celebrating growth, and paving a path filled with understanding and love. Welcome to the journey through puberty and autism.

Understanding Puberty in Autism

When we think about puberty, we often consider the visible changes: growth spurts, voice changes, and new hair growth. But for our children on the autism spectrum, puberty is not just a series of physical transformations. It's a multifaceted shift that affects them sensory, emotionally, cognitively, and socially. This section aims to shed light on these aspects, helping us to better understand and support our children through this time.

Sensory Experiences Intensify

For many children with autism, sensory sensitivities are part of daily life. As they enter puberty, these sensitivities can become more pronounced. The feel of clothing, the intensity of smells, and even the sound of the bustling world around them can feel overwhelming. It's as if the volume of the sensory world has been turned up a notch.

Emotional Tides

Puberty brings a wave of new emotions. For our children, who may already navigate a complex relationship with emotional regulation, this wave can sometimes feel like a tsunami. They might experience mood swings, intense feelings, and a sense of being overwhelmed by emotions they can't always name or explain. It's important for us to remember that these feelings are as real and valid as they are challenging.

Cognitive Shifts

As our children grow, so does their cognitive awareness. They begin to see themselves and the world with new eyes. For a child with autism, this cognitive shift can lead to new questions about identity, increased self-awareness, and a deeper pondering of social relationships. These changes can be both enlightening and bewildering, offering a new perspective on the world they navigate.

Social Navigation

Social interactions often become more complex during puberty. For our children, the social rules and expectations that seemed confusing before can now feel even more perplexing. Friendships may change; social circles shift. The desire for independence might clash with the need for support. Understanding and navigating these social waters can be particularly challenging for those with autism, who may find the unspoken rules of social engagement elusive.

In understanding these dimensions of puberty for a child with autism, we gain insight into their world. It's a world that's changing rapidly, both inside and out. As parents and caregivers, our role is to provide a beacon of support and understanding. By acknowledging the multifaceted nature of puberty in autism, we're better equipped to guide our children through this transformative period with empathy and love.

Stay tuned as we explore common challenges and strategies to support our children through the sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social changes of puberty in the sections to come. Together, we can navigate these waters, helping our children to sail smoothly into the next chapter of their lives.

Common Challenges During Puberty

Understanding the road ahead can make our journey through puberty with our children who have autism more navigable. Let’s delve into some common challenges that puberty often brings and consider how we might best support our kids through these changes.

Sensory Sensitivities

As our children enter puberty, their already heightened sensory sensitivities may intensify. New textures, sounds, and even personal hygiene products can become sources of discomfort or distress.


  • Personalize Hygiene Products: Involve your child in choosing products that feel comfortable to them, whether it's a specific fabric for clothes or unscented hygiene products.

  • Gradual Introduction: Slowly introduce new sensory experiences, giving your child time to adjust at their own pace.

Emotional Regulation

The hormonal changes of puberty can amplify emotions, making mood swings more pronounced. For kids on the autism spectrum, who might already find emotional regulation challenging, this can feel overwhelming.


  • Create Emotional Safety Nets: Establish routines that include time for emotional check-ins and use tools like emotion cards or apps designed to help express feelings.

  • Teach Coping Strategies: Simple, effective strategies like deep breathing, quiet time, or engaging in a favorite activity can help manage intense emotions.

Social Challenges

As social dynamics grow more complex during puberty, the nuances of friendship and interaction evolve. For children with autism, who may find social cues challenging to interpret, these changes can feel bewildering.

Teenage girl with autism studying and playing with figet toy so she doesn't have to be part of a social group


  • Social Stories and Role-Play: Use social stories to explain changes in social interactions and role-play to practice new social skills.

  • Find Like-Minded Peers: Encourage participation in clubs or groups that align with your child’s interests, where they can meet peers with similar hobbies.

Physical Changes

Puberty’s physical changes are noticeable and can be confusing. For a child with autism, understanding and accepting these changes in their body can be particularly challenging.


  • Use Visual Aids: Books and visual aids that explain puberty in clear, simple language can be very helpful.

  • Maintain Open Communication: Foster an environment where questions about physical changes are welcomed and answered in an age-appropriate way.

Navigating Puberty Together

These challenges, while significant, are not insurmountable. With patience, understanding, and the right strategies, we can help our children navigate the complex waters of puberty. By acknowledging their unique experiences and offering our unwavering support, we pave the way for their growth and development during this pivotal stage of life.

In the next section, we will explore detailed strategies for parents and caregivers to support their children through the sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social changes of puberty. Stay tuned for practical advice and tips to help your child thrive.

Strategies for Parents and Caregivers

As we navigate the journey of puberty alongside our children with autism, having a toolkit of strategies can make all the difference. Here, we'll explore practical approaches to support our kids through the sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social aspects of this developmental stage.

Open and Honest Communication

  • Creating a Safe Space for Questions: Foster an environment where any question is welcomed, ensuring your child feels comfortable coming to you with their concerns.

  • Using Clear and Simple Language: Explain the changes of puberty in straightforward terms, avoiding euphemisms that might confuse your child.

  • Visual Supports and Social Stories: These can be invaluable in explaining the more complex aspects of puberty, like emotional changes and social dynamics.

Creating a Supportive Environment

  • Maintaining Routines: The predictability of routines can provide comfort during the unpredictable changes of puberty.

  • Gradual Introductions: Slowly introducing new hygiene practices, for instance, can help your child adjust without becoming overwhelmed.

  • Sensory-Sensitive Choices: From clothing to personal care products, ensure that your child has sensory-appropriate options that make them feel comfortable.

Educational Resources

  • Books and Online Materials: Curate a selection of resources designed to explain puberty in ways that resonate with your child. Look for materials that are specifically tailored to children with autism.

  • Professional Guidance: Sometimes, a conversation with a trusted therapist or healthcare provider can demystify puberty for your child in ways parents might not be able to.

Professional Support

  • Seek Expert Advice: Therapists, educators, and pediatricians can offer valuable insights and strategies tailored to your child's needs.

  • Consistent Support Networks: Ensure that all the adults in your child's life are on the same page regarding how to address the challenges of puberty, from teachers to family members.

Tips for Managing Specific Challenges

  • For Sensory Sensitivities: Create a sensory-friendly living space where your child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. Consider noise-cancelling headphones for auditory sensitivities or soft, seamless clothing for tactile sensitivities.

  • For Emotional Regulation: Teach and regularly practice relaxation techniques together, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. Identifying emotions can also be facilitated through apps or games designed for emotional learning.

  • For Social Challenges: Participate in social skills groups or activities where your child can practice interacting with peers in a structured, supportive environment. Encourage hobbies and interests where social interaction is a natural part of the activity.

  • For Physical Changes: Establish a predictable hygiene routine that respects your child's sensory preferences. Use visual schedules or charts to help remember daily hygiene tasks.

Encouraging Independence and Self-Care

Empower your child by involving them in decisions about their care and daily routines. Start with small, manageable tasks that they can take ownership of, gradually increasing responsibility as they grow more comfortable and confident.

Remember, every child's journey through puberty is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience, love, and understanding are your best tools as you support your child through this time of change. Together, you can navigate the challenges of puberty, fostering a sense of independence and self-assuredness in your child.


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