This was an ordinary Monday, so I thought. I took the boys to the library for about 2 hours and returned home to feed them lunch. I left again soon after to go grocery shopping. Upon my return, I am approached by Callie, looking panicked. He says, “Look!” His pants are wet but not in a place where if he had peed in his pants. I asked what happened. He replied, “Wet.” My heart stopped. If it had been water, his juice or anything he could identify with, he would have mentioned that to me already or at least showed me. So, I knew it was my nightmare coming to life. I didn’t want to think what I was thinking. I smelled his pants. I felt my head spinning, not wanting to wrap my head around what the stain actually was. I helped him change his pants and then ran upstairs to my husband. He stopped working immediately when he saw my face of disbelief. He says,“What’s wrong?” I said, “Smell his pants.” “Who?” he says. “Callie.” He didn’t smell them. He said “orgasm.” I fell to the floor and cried. I knew Callie had no clue what was going on, but he had figured out a “feel good” spot on his body, and because of his sensory issues, this I knew was going to be an ongoing thing. Puberty didn’t even enter my mind. I thought, he’s not a teenager yet. Not even 12. I was taken aback to when he was in preschool. He used to touch himself so much that it was suggested that we get him a bodysuit. My mind knew that this would help his sensory problems but my heart was devastated. That was one of the low moments. It was especially bad because he wasn’t potty-trained yet, so replacing bodysuits was seemingly nonstop. . .a frequent purchase and a constant reminder that something was wrong with my son. I felt lost as I did at that time. I find this difficult to write but I know I’m not alone, even though at the time, I was convinced I was. Puberty, as I found out, hits kids regardless of where they are developmentally. These changes can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially if the child does not understand what is happening to their body. And for an autism parent or any special needs parent, puberty can be just as frightening as the day your child was diagnosed. You’re facing unfamiliar territory, and in most instances, you are not prepared. And yes, there are books, online information & professionals who can help guide you, but the possibilities of the worse happening is almost always at the forefront of your mind. I was so not ready for puberty to unload its bags in my house. My first response to Callie was “Don’t’ touch your peepee.” Ok. . . but now that’s weird. He touches his peepee to go pee & he has to touch himself to wash in the shower. I was confusing him. . . .and me. I found myself beating my head against the wall. My husband left to go to church. He didn’t say anything, before he left, about Callie at all. He checked on him but that was it. At first, my insides were screaming, “Please say something!” I needed him to respond. I needed him to tell me that Callie was going to be alright and we’ll get through this. But instead, he kissed me bye and his unspoken words left with him. I sat at the door when he left and cried, but I soon realized that as a father, normally, you can sit down with your son and explain the birds & the bees. You can discuss body parts and its function. You can discuss hygiene and what growing boys need to do to take care of themselves. With Callie, he was clueless on how to interpret the facts of life, particularly your body and all its function, excitement & emotion. So for a moment, my husband shut down this event of the day. He focused on work because he knew if he let himself dwell on Callie, failure would consume him. The struggle of not knowing how to reach him would be too overwhelming. I got it. . .I understood it, but the burning question still remained – what do we do? Callie was 11 and I see now that puberty can introduce itself earlier than expected. Guilt whispered sweet nothings in my ear because I wasn’t prepared. Shocked & unprepared. Not sure how I could have been ready, but you live to try and counteract things before they happen. However, the tears finally did stop. I didn’t cry as long as I thought I would. I came to myself. I didn’t have time to cry long. This is my son and relentless I would have to be. I searched the web. I spoke with other parents. I spoke with specialists. I read lots of books. I had to educate myself so I could help steer my son through this phase of life. I had to learn to steer on his level of understanding…. and I am still in school, learning. Raising a child with autism has not been a stroll in the park. Adding puberty to the amount of things needed to be taught and learned can make you feel engulfed by a tidal wave. But I’ve learned to take it one day at a time. Breathe. Pace myself. Don’t panic. Learn all I can but teach in stages. Know when it is the right time to discuss puberty or any other life encounter…. and know my child’s limits. Too much information or conversation at one time may cause frustration for me, as well as, for him. And with everything else Callie has faced & overcomed – ex. Potty-training, feeding oneself, bathing & something as simple as smiling — I know it all takes time.
Thanks for listening,