My ten-year-old daughter with Asperger’s syndrome just got her period. When my daughter was diagnosed several years ago as being on the Autism spectrum, I only thought so far as the toddler/elementary school years. Everyday things like getting dressed and playing with other kids were already such challenges, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what would happen when my daughter, you know, becomes a woman.
Call it denial if you will, but even though I knew one day my girl would get her period, I expected that to happen to a 12 or 13-year-old girl, a girl who was developmentally much further than where my daughter is. Not my 10-year-old, whose world still revolves around stuffed animals, Thomas the Train and water color painting.
Imagine taking your daughter to a store to try on bras and then rewarding her with Play Doh.
A year or so ago I watched my little girl begin her transformation from having a typical little-kid-body to getting curves, watching her baby fat move from her belly to her hips. And finally, came her breasts. She went over night from being flat-as-a-pancake to having C-cups.
Still, seeing the signs last year, I didn’t do what I originally wanted to do, which was bury my head in the sand and start drinking heavily. I started Googling and started talking to her about the changes in her body, giving her facts but leaving out details that I didn’t think she could understand, like where babies come from.
As her body continued to transform, I spoke to her pediatrician about how long it might be until she got her period. Her doctor said usually within a year from the time you start to see the physical signs.
So, I started talking to her about her period, again sticking to facts, telling her it was nothing to be scared of. I crossed one of my enormous deal breakers and left the bathroom door open while I had my period just so my visually oriented daughter could see me take care of myself and see that it was no big deal.
And one day, just as the doctor predicted, it came. My daughter had been out grocery shopping with her dad and when she came in, I noticed a stain on her skirt. I sat my daughter down and reminded her of when we talked about when a girl gets her period and that it might happen to her. Her eyes focused downward, she nodded her head. I reminded her of how I told her it was nothing to worry about, that we just had to go and change her clothes and underpants.
After a few days she did get the hang of it herself and began taking care of herself with me just reminding her every so often to change it. As hard as I thought the period would be, it’s actually the easy part of all this.
What’s enormously harder is the way I see people look at my daughter now, this woman-child with full on breasts who clutches her gingham checked teddy bear. Or my daughter’s gym teacher who sent a note home asking me to buy sports bras for my daughter because her breasts jiggle too much when she runs.
Of all the issues I thought I would have to deal with as the mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, jiggling breasts on my 10-year-old did not figure into my list.
But… it’s our reality.