Puberty, I'm so not ready for you

Cathy Blatnik


Okay, Dominic is still my "baby," isn't he?!?!?! He likes to sit on my lap and snuggle. Hmm, considering that he is almost as tall as me and will be 13 next July, that probably won't be for too much longer. I have a little bit of experience with puberty with a boy since I've known my stepson since he was six, but our relationship is like that of a really good friend, it's always been that way. If he had any questions about anything private, he didn't ask me.

Lauren's transition in and out of puberty I could understand, since we are both women. Dominic, so far, is totally unlike anything I've ever experienced before. With the Autism, developmentally, he is behind those of his "typically-developing," peers, but I can tell you from the physical and emotional standpoint, he is right on "track."

Shortly after he turned 11 last year, Lauren was telling me that she could "smell" Dominic. That's not a good thing. I can still remember the smell of "body odor," from the boys when I was in junior high. Ugh. I went to the Kroger right away and picked up some Old Spice deodorant. It took a handful of times for me to show him what to do, but he can do it pretty well by himself now.

It took many, many years to get Dominic potty-trained and at home we have had to teach him to close the bathroom door for "privacy," when he needs to do his toileting. So far, so good on the acne front. He gets a few pimples here and there, but I have explained to him what they are and seems pretty nonplussed about it. In the past month, hair has started to crop up in places there hasn't been previously. I won't go into details, but you get the "picture."

I keep telling the hubby that he needs to have a talk about the "birds and the bees," with our son, but with a special needs child, it isn't quite as easy as sitting them down and telling them. They did have some talks about puberty in school and he received some handouts, but I don't think he fully understood. He definitely knows that someone touching him in a certain way or a certain place is not appropriate, thank goodness.

I still take Dominic into the ladies restroom with me when we are out in public and he is always in the stall next to me. I don't foresee that changing ever, unless he is with the hubby or another male family member/friend. He is way too trusting and outgoing to go "solo," into the men's restroom.

The emotional component of puberty has been "challenging." Yesterday morning, he got mad at me about something shortly before he went to school and he took the palm of his hand and hit the basement door. I was like, "I don't think so." I reserve a certain "tone," of my voice to use for when I have to reprimand him and I used it yesterday. He knew I was not happy. In the past, I've had to send him to his bedroom to let him "cool," down. Dominic is not a big fan of that, so I try to save it for when he really deserves it. He's slammed the door in my face more times than I care to remember. Lauren has said, "even I didn't do that!"

Just like I wish there was a "manual," for raising a child with Autism, this is a time when I wish I had a "manual," for boys with Autism going through puberty. I'm so not ready for all of this, but I guess I better be!


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