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Autism and approaching puberty

Will is 12. I am not sure how that happened, but this is my second kid approaching puberty. Rory has (so far) been pretty uncomplicated. They decided on their own to adjust personal hygiene based on how they felt. Will hates change. He hates showers anyway. So the suggestion of CHANGE to daily showers has not been met with happiness. He is still rejecting my suggestion. But we will keep working on it.

I also suggested some additional facial cleansing by way of witch hazel. Will also bucked that thought. Hair brushing more than just post shower is also not welcome. Nor is frequent changing of clothes. He is also getting a mustache which he hates (I think it's adorable). While some of these are typical pre-teen things, they are intensified with the autism aspect of Will's being. He refuses change vehemently. Will has always hated change so the fact that his body is changing without his consent is an issue.

But it is and we need to help him along. We will gradually work our way toward daily showers. Deodorant is a mainstay. Hair brushing is improving. Witch hazel will be a gradual introduction. Within the next several years, things like jobs, driving, and college will become part of this discussion. As we help Will through puberty, so we will solidify our ability to help him through these other life changes.

Gradually and slowly attacking each of these changes will help Will, and us, adjust more seamlessly to the changes that are inevitable in this life. With Will, we know that we can talk and encourage and gradually nudge him toward these changes. Your child might need more. Your child might need counseling through these difficult times. You might too. These are not easy transitions and they look different for everyone as each child and parent figures out how to navigate together.

Our acceptance of our children's changes and growth is paramount to helping them happily move into adulthood. As they grow, the part that might be hardest for parents is the additional independence that they begin to assert. We have two choices: encourage independence while they still have us as a safety net; and restrict them and disallow exploration. Encouraging them will likely lead to young adults who have learned how to make appointments, apply and interview for jobs, budget money for wants and needs, and eventually full independence and career security. Stifling their attempts while they are teens, though may lead to the opposite and serial dependence on parents.

This started as a post about Will's burgeoning teendom and hygiene and spiraled into something far bigger. But that is how puberty goes. Especially with kids with twice exceptionalities. Will can do college level work, but cannot yet make college age choices for himself. The balance is even more precarious due to the anxiety he has surrounding change because of autism. The balance we must strike as parents helping our young ones to navigate these changes is precarious too. Reach out if you need support in figuring out what and how to do with your pubescent children!

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