Is your daughter with special needs about to get her period for the first time?
Here is a 10-point checklist to help you prepare her for her first menstruation, including how to help her understand and accept the experience and self-care it requires.
Plus, scroll down for additional resources to help her (and you!) through the first period and beyond.
1. Do I know how my daughter learns best? Are written words, demonstrations, or talking better?
2. Do visual supports help her to better follow along and attend when she is learning something new?
3. What are my daughter's interests? How can I increase her interest and engagement in this topic?
4. What are my daughter's sensory sensitivities?
5. Does she have gross or fine motor difficulties that I should consider?
6. What are the problem-solving and social skills required for self-care during menstruation?
7. What steps will she be required to complete for self-care during menstruation?
8. Do I know what the procedure at school will be when she gets her period?
9. Does my daughter understand the concepts of pain and discomfort? How will she communicate around this? Is there a plan in place should she experience painful menstrual symptoms?
10. Have I made an appointment with my daughter's doctor (e.g. pediatrician) or have I met with a doctor recently and talked about puberty and related medical care yet?
Expert advice: Read more tips from Dr. Marisuela Huerta, a licensed clinical psychologist at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, about helping your daughter cope with menstruation and develop healthy habits from the beginning.
Recommended resources to help parents and girls with special needs deal with getting their first period:
1. The Healthy Bodies Toolkit for Girls is a treasure trove of free downloads from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center that includes the publication Healthy Bodies: A Parent’s Guide on Puberty for Girls with Disabilities, as well as an appendix featuring a social story that teaches about periods. (FREE!)
2. Special Girls' Business is a great step-by-step guide through the process of managing periods. ($32, includes free shipping)
3. The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls, Vol. 1 and 2, published by American Girl, is a good choice for readers. ($12.99)
4. The Circles Curriculum contains tools on social boundaries for schools and therapists. (Individual programs start at $399)