Nothing is more awkward for a guardian or a youngster than “the talk.” But knowing how to talk to your child with an intellectual disability about puberty is vital. Navigating this touchy subject is also tricky when it comes to kids who are classified as having an intellectual disability. The main worry is that kids won’t be able to comprehend what is happening to their bodies. Thanks to your assistance and careful planning, this need not be the case.
How to Talk to Your Disabled Child About Puberty
The following advice will assist you in navigating the conversations you will have as their bodies evolve.
1. Start The Discussion Early
Although having discussions regarding puberty might occasionally seem daunting, you should ensure you do so as soon as possible. Do not put off talking to your child about puberty until they are experiencing the teen hormones and physical changes.
The school’s health film won’t be sufficient for providing the information that children with intellectual disabilities require. So reserve some time right away for talking. You do not want them to rely much on their peers for knowledge. Start out slowly in a peaceful, distraction-free area.
2. Take It Apart
Break it down for your kids just like you would anything else you were teaching them. In other words, avoid attempting to impart all of your knowledge about puberty and sexuality at once.
For instance, when discussing menstruation, start by defining what a pad is and its purpose. Show them how to use it and how to dispose of it. Later, bring up PMS and cramping. Instead of attempting to convey too much information at once, offer everything in a clear, actionable way.
Going over the five phases of puberty is also beneficial. The five stages include height, voice, skin condition, and mood variations. Be sure to emphasize that these changes don’t happen all at once; instead, they develop gradually over approximately ten years.
Furthermore, you might need to revisit the issue more than once throughout that time. Children with disabilities frequently experience anxious if their bodies undergo a change. Encourage them by assuring them that others share their challenges.
3. Use Proper Terminology
Make careful to use scientific terms for body parts and functions right away. Do not be afraid to use the appropriate terminology.
Some children, for example, have a vulva, outer labia, inner labia, clitoris, urethra, and vagina. Others, on the other hand, have a urethra, glans, penis, and scrotum (or scrotal sac). Your child might be transgender and have a unique combination of traits.
It is typical for adults to feel awkward using these terms around their children, but children must understand what these terms mean, if they can. Knowing them can help people spot health problems later in life much more easily.
Additionally, utilizing the proper terminology can help your youngster avoid confusion. Children may be misled if they are compared to adults who tell them that a baby is growing in the womb of their parent. They could become confused and believe that the parent ate the infant if you use the term belly. They might also ponder how the infant originally entered the mother’s womb.
Be honest with your youngster despite any discomfort you may be feeling about the topic. Communicate openly and honestly, and don’t try to hide anything.
4. Be Calm
It can be frightening and perplexing for children to experience sudden changes in their bodies, such as hair growth in areas where none previously existed. You must emphasize that the changes they are going through are entirely normal and that everyone experiences them. You can also bring up how most people’s bodies alter in perfectly appropriate ways. Talking about gender and gender dysphoria at this time is also appropriate.
While some people continue to be lesser in stature, others become extremely tall. Some people may experience rapid hair growth, whereas others may experience slower growth. By highlighting distinctions, one can gain some solace from realizing they are not required to be precisely like everyone else. It also shows that what they are going through is not strange in any way.
5. Look for Teaching Moments
Use real-world examples to illustrate your points when talking about puberty and sexuality. To connect the topic of puberty, you may mention your sibling’s pregnancy or a cousin’s wedding.
Real-world examples assist kids in making sense of their experiences and what it mean for their future as adults.
You might also try reading literature about puberty, self-care, and reproduction together. Don’t forget to emphasize the value of maintaining good hygiene by having them take regular showers, use deodorant, and wash their faces. These crucial life skills are also connected to discussions about puberty and their changing bodies.
6. Study the Policies at Your School
You should know how the school will handle your child’s period if they are at risk of menstruating. For instance, many schools won’t assist students in changing pads or even accompany them into the restroom. Therefore, if your kid cannot change pads on their own, you must have a plan in place for them.
Talk about how these circumstances are often handled with your student’s teachers and teaching assistants, and then come up with a strategy that everyone is happy with, including your child.
7. Protection Against Abuse
Children with impairments are frequently used as easy targets for abuse and exploitation by those who commit the crimes. In fact, sexual abuse makes up a sizable portion of all the many sorts of abuse that kids with disabilities face.
Sex abuse is more common among intellectually disabled children than those without disabilities, a study found. They also have a lower likelihood of reporting it or having their trauma taken seriously. According to a different study, peers are most likely to sexually abuse people with intellectual disabilities; 99 percent of offenders are people the victim knows, who are linked to them or help with childcare.
Parents and children can work together to ensure the safety of their loved ones by maintaining open lines of communication. Stressing that their bodies belong to them and keeping an eye out for indicators of abuse are crucial.
Explaining to children their bodily autonomy and the fact that they always have a choice about sharing affection with another person is one way to communicate this notion. As a result, reassure children that they always have the option to decline a parting hug or kiss, even from Grandma.
It’s crucial to identify which portions of the body are particularly private and to emphasize that others must not touch those areas of the body without express consent. You can explain to them that swimsuits, bras, and underwear typically hide private body parts.
When someone touches these bodily parts or does something else that makes them feel uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to have someone to turn to. Remind your child that no one will be upset with them for being honest.
8. Be Accessible for Further Questions
After you talk to your child, they might have further queries, worries, or just need a more in-depth explanation. Be sure to emphasize that you are always available to continue the conversation after it has ended.
To avoid confusion, make it clear that no question is off limits. Make sure they understand, in other words, that they can come to you with anything and that nothing will make you look bad. Also, let them know that you will look up the solution together if you do not know it immediately. Staying in touch with them and reassuring them of your affection is the most crucial thing. No inquiry is off limits.
9. Repeat With Patience As Necessary
Remember that many of the topics you cover with your child for the first time might not stick with them. Therefore, it is crucial to have conversations regarding puberty and sexuality regularly. In fact, you might need to start at the beginning and have the puberty discussion once again each time they notice a small change in their body.
Always be patient during the procedure. Your child might need some time to comprehend what is going on. Additionally, it could take some time for them to adjust to the changes depending on their impairment. Being present and available for as many talks as they desire is the most important thing you can do for your students.
For teens and young people with cognitive challenges, it’s crucial to understand sexuality and develop bodily awareness. Consequently, it is imperative that parents serve as a key source of information for their children as they go through puberty and the changes that occur in their bodies.
They will gradually come to accept the changes occurring in their bodies if they are honest and patient.