MY FIRST PERIOD
My name is Leanne, I’m 20, and have Asperger Syndrome. Like every other woman in the world, I get my period every month. Although I’m not a teen or preteen anymore, I do remember what it was like.
This article can be helpful to parents of a daughter with a disability or people who work with people with special needs such as special education teachers, speech/language therapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, or other people whose jobs require close contact with people with disabilities. So please read on because some of what I’m about to mention might help both you and your daughter.
My mom and I read a book about puberty and periods when I was about 9 years old. She and I had both noticed that I was starting to develop on the outside, so she knew that it was possible that I could get my period soon. I thought the book was about punctuation, because the title had the word ‘period’ in it. The book also talked about things like stuff you can use when you’re on your period, what to do if you get it while you’re at school or away from home, and other stuff about periods. If you just want to talk to your daughter about this yourself, make sure you simplify your explanation to make sure she can understand it. If you want to read a book about this with your daughter, make sure the book is appropriate to her developmental level. Social stories have also been known to work when teaching special needs kids about puberty. After I read the book, I was SO excited to get my period! It was my body’s way of saying, “You’re a woman now, Leanne!” Every time I went to the restroom, I would look for it, and one day, there it was!
I was 10 years and 3 months old when I finally got my period (which was young, considering my mom was 13 when she got hers). I thought it was poop (the stain was brown, not blood red), so I didn’t do what the book suggested. Later, after I put my pajamas on, my mom came into my room and saw my pants laying on the floor. That’s when she told me that I got my period! I handled it like I had been dealing with it my whole life! I put the pad on myself, and didn’t cry at all! When your daughter gets her period, you may celebrate by taking her out to eat, taking her to a movie (or watching a movie with her at home), getting her a nice gift (my mom got me a flower, a book, and a card), making a special meal or treat for her, or doing something else special.
As we all know, PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) is a term used to describe the symptoms women and girls have every month for a couple of days to a couple of weeks before their period. We all know some women get a little bit irritable, sad, angry, moody, hungry or other things right before their period. For girls and women with disabilities, PMS can be very hard to handle!
Some girls figure out what their PMS symptoms are within months after their first period, and for others it may take a few years. It took me until I was about 13 or 14 to figure out what my PMS symptoms are (which is kind of a long time, considering I was 10 when I got my period).
If your daughter has started her period, or if you think she may start soon, talk with her therapists or other people who work closely with her about helping her develop strategies for how to cope with her PMS (tell them not to mention PMS or the period unless she says it’s ok, and don’t mention that that is what this is for unless she seems to want to talk about it with you). You may want to work on this with her as well.
Birth Control is another option, if her PMS is SO bad that she can’t control it no matter how hard she tries (and she can’t be consoled by the things you’re trying now), if you feel she may need protection, if you want to know when she will get her period (many people on the Autism Spectrum don’t deal well with surprises or change), or if she has other problems with her period (i. e. bad cramps, migraines, heavy bleeding, irregular periods even after she has already had her period for a few years). Before I went on the pill, I would get SO irritable and moody for about 1-2 weeks before my period that I could barely control what I said or did, and you couldn’t tell what was going to trigger an outburst! Since starting on the pill, though, things have been A LOT better! I have few, if any of the mood swings I had before, and they are usually a lot more manageable! But you absolutely must talk with your daughter’s doctor before putting her on birth control as you would before starting any other medication.
By Leanne Strong