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Book Review on puberty and hygiene for young people with autism

This year my son turned ten and I decided I should purchase Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism. One thing to note is that the fonts change throughout the book. The pages that discuss developing a program and teaching various skills are presented in an easy to read manner, mostly for the adults teaching the curriculum. The remaining pages are activities and social stories that have larger fonts that are bolded. This seems to be easier to follow for my son as well.

It is recommended to segregate the sexes when going over the curriculum with students, especially the puberty section. The age range is geared from five through eighteen. The author, Mary Wrobel is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) with over twenty years experience working with students who have autism. The purpose of Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism is to teach students with disabilities how they can live healthy, save lives. A statistic quoted on the back cover states that "almost eighty percent of special needs girls and up to fifty percent of boys are believed to be abused or molested by age 18."

Throughout the book the stories are told in various points of views, either in the first, second or third person. Visual cues, communication aides and assistive technology is shown within the chapters. Mary also suggests starting self-care skills as young as three for brushing teeth and washing hands.

"The goals of this curricular program are to promote independence, instill personal safety and reduce fear and confusion. With an emphasis on made-up stories and activities, the curriculum is designed primarily for students who are visually strong and capable of some physical manipulation of items."

The seven units cover Hygiene, Health, Modesty, Growth and Development, Menstruation, Touching and Personal Safety and Masturbation. There is also a summary, references and resources, about the author, index, table of contents and a useful additional story entitled using a urinal. My son was disappointed there was not a glossary. The first words he wanted to know the meaning of was puberty and period.

Your student or child will not read about birth control, sexual intercourse, reproduction or sexually transmitted diseases. It is recommended to supplement this curriculum as the students become young adults. I was glad to know these issues would not be covered, yet my son ran into two words when looking up puberty in the dictionary - reproductive and sexually.

There are 250 pages in this soft cover volume with all the materials within the pages in black and white, not color. The cover is very basic in light green with a girl putting her hair in a braid and a boy combing his hair, so this will not embarrass the child or student to carry it around.

I find the best time is prior to bedtime when his younger brother has gone off to bed and we can concentrate on the subjects within Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism.

Since my son is ten years old and considered high functioning he did not have to read indepth a few of the chapters. He did find some of them amusing though, like What's Dirty and we need to take a bath or shower. "Sometimes our bodies smell stinky."

Some of the chapters covered within the units are as follows:

Hygiene

I wash my hair with shampoo
We brush our teeth
Sometimes I need a haircut
Picking my nose
Alex uses the toilet
I use the Bathroom at school

My son and I discussed the bathroom for school section and noted that it made reference to either using the stall or urinal. Following these broken down steps was a story on how to properly use toilet paper. None of the steps listed in the book are numbered, which I think is a good thing so the students do not get stuck on certain numbers instead of the actual steps.

The very last page of Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism is entitled, Using A Urinal. This was perfect timing for my son since he prefers to use the stall at school and other public restrooms. I see no problem with this but several weeks ago after hearing of all the molestation cases on the cable news channels I decided to ask my son some questions about the school bathroom.

Over the years I have asked him if anyone asks him why he uses the stall at school and this time he said someone had just brought that up. My son handled the moment fine until the other boy asked him if he knew how to use the urinal. Yikes - I should have seen that coming and prepared my son. When he told me that he responded to the boy that he did not know I gasped wondering what happened next. I had visions of another child touching my son and showing him the steps to use a urinal. From what I could get out of my son the boy told him without actually doing it in front of him or asking him to do it.

My son attends social skills training once a week the same time his younger sibling has feeding therapy. I had my son use the restroom when no one was around and I stood outside the door so he could practice using a urinal. This has worked out well, and he still prefers the stall, which is preferable by me. I basically wanted my son to know how to use the urinal so he will never tell another person in a bathroom that he does not know how to.

Some of the points made in Using A Urinal include -

Everyone who comes into the bathroom can see me when I use the urinal.

I don't drop my pants and underpants when I use the urinal.

When I use the urinal I must only unzip my pants and open the fly of my underwear to pee.

I only let my pants drop a little bit. I don't want anyone to see my butt."


The instruction section for Using A Urinal does mention teaching modesty and discretion, that it is not okay to look at someone's privates. Also found at the end of the book is teaching a private routine for masturbation and establishing a schedule. For example - "I can decide what days and times I will masturbate. I need to be sure that I am alone when I masturbate."

Health

Eating Fruits and Vegetables
Sometimes I feel sick
Going to the Doctor
Wearing a Bandage
I Don't Touch Blood
Taking Medicine

Modesty

Where Can I Be Naked?
My Clothes need to stay on
My private areas
No hands down my pants

Growth and Development

A story about female development
A story about male development
I Need to wear deodorant
Wearing a Bra
Shaving my Face
Worksheets

Menstruation

Getting my period
Blood will come
I wear pads in my panties
creating a bathroom folder
sometimes I have cramps

Touching and Personal Safety

Touching others
Activities for boys and girls on where someone can touch me
A personalized story for touching rules
Talking about Sex and Private areas
personal safety cards
I don't know strangers

Masturbation

Male and female masturbation
having erections
private routines

My son has been to the Doctor many times and the Dentist, therefore he glossed over these areas but did take note in the pain page since he burned himself last summer at camp and had bandages for the burn marks. He is very much interested in growing a mustache someday and wanted to know the age this will happen and how old he will be when he starts high school. Because my son repeated first grade he is ten and about to enter fourth grade, while his classmates were eight. This causes a little concern for him, but luckily a friend in his class was held back as well and they sat beside each other in class and is ten as well.

My son has never shown any interest in walking around naked and does not care about touching his private parts. He did agree with the listings in the I Don't Touch Blood section. "Blood is dirty and yucky. Blood can have germs. I never touch blood." He knows to drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep. He also understands that bathing suits cover our private areas.

I am not certain he completely understands the period section, but we have plenty of time to go over that and luckily I am the parent to two boys. Touching others and letting others touch you is the section we continue to go over nightly so that it is instilled in him. Sex, private areas and masturbation produced worried looks from my son so we can wait awhile before covering those in more depth.

Since my nine year-old is non verbal this is a book I can save for his curriculum needs in the classroom as he gets older and the visual cues inside will assist in trying to reach him with these issues.

Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism is a much needed resource for the autism community so that children with disabilities can learn about personal safety in a nurturing environment.

The information presented is repetitious in nature, but that is needed when teaching children on the Autism Spectrum. The vocabulary is simple, yet specific. The growing and development section covered voices changing, growing hair on various parts of the body and how they will continue to grow until about age twenty. The steps outlining shaving the face are very useful and the age ranges were helpful in preparing for these events. It is mentioned that hair will be thicker on boys legs around the age of twelve, girls will get their first period by age 11 or 12, they will sweat more, excrete body odors, have a growth spurt and develop underarm hair. I think we need to do a chart to get prepared for these developments.

I am thankful for the curriculum presented in Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum For Young People With Autism, as it helps me raise two boys on the Autism Spectrum and make sure I do not miss anything in the process that they need to know and be aware of before someone else tells them about these issues.

Originally published on Epinions



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