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  • Gloria Cooks, OTAS

Puberty and Self Care for Teens With Developmental Delays


Many parents are in question about if their teen that has been diagnosed with developmental delay will go through puberty at the same age as their peers. Early intervention with occupational therapy is an important part of their life. Many parents realize that puberty is important and then question about what to do when it happens. Parents should not wait until their child reaches puberty to talk to them about it. Parents should begin before obvious signs appear. Changes to the human body can be shock a teen if they are not aware of what is happening. Choosing the correct words when explaining body parts makes it easier to explain puberty. Many parents find it easier to explain body parts as areas that are covered by our underwear. Teens with developmental delays may need to learn about certain areas of the body that are not appropriate to be shown in public. If they touch their private areas of their body in public, they should be redirected and told they should do this in private. Puberty can establish a high and low with emotions. Teens should be taught to express their emotions as opposed to keeping them in. If the child is verbal, they should be taught to name their emotions. If they are not verbal they should utilize pictures that display their emotions. Repetition may help with learning about the body if it is broken down into small amounts of information. Reading books may also assist with learning about puberty. There are several books that have ben written for parents of children with delays. Books such as, “Taking Care of Myself” by Mary Wrobel, “Making Sense of Sex: A Forthright Guide to Puberty, Sex and Relationships” for people that have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome by Sarah Attwood and “Asperger’s Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence Through Adulthood” by Isabelle Henault are very useful even though they may target certain diagnosis.

General self-care skills include bathing/showering, deodorant use, teeth brushing, etc are topics that teens will go through. Many parents will provide their child with instructions regarding their self-care skills, but the child may not understand or comply. Children that have been diagnosed with developmental delays may ask “why” they have to. Visual schedules on how to complete their self-care skills can assist with the process. Parents can eventually make the picture schedule a game, which will eventually allow the child to perform the self-care skills on their own. Many teens with developmental delays learn better when they can see their activities. Parents may find it helpful to make a life size figure of the body to be used as a checklist for hygiene when child is performing them. This may also help them with sequencing the activity. While every child is different, there are many ways to explain what puberty is and how to perform self-care with children.

Gossan, R. (2016, March 15). Puberty for Children With Autism. Retrieved from https://nspt4kids.com/parenting/puberty-for-children-with-autism/

Ammenheuser, M. (2017, May 30). How to Handle Puberty with a Special Needs Son. Retrieved from http://www.mysouthernhealth.com/puberty-special-needs-boys/

#puberty #developmentaldelay #teensandpuberty #teensandhygiene #teenswithdevelopmentaldisabilities

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