Tag Archives: Puberty

Actions Taken and Puberty

“Actions taken that get responses you don’t want.”

This was what Emma typed in response to my question, what should we write about on the blog today?

Emma proposed making one blog entry a week, possibly asking for readers to answer some of her questions, but before we could continue, she had a  few concerns.

“Would thinking about stressful times cause upset?”  she typed.

I said that it might, but we could put a trigger warning above with the topic so that if the topic was something specific, people would be warned and could stop reading.  As I said this to her I marveled at her endless compassion and concern for other people’s feelings.  Then I said I believed that sometimes it can be helpful to know you aren’t alone in feeling and thinking things that you don’t necessarily know others feel and think, at least this has been my experience.

We discussed the experience of going through puberty and how adults will often talk about their children and what they believe they are going through, but not about their own experience of going through puberty.  “Maybe we should ask people to share their memory of puberty and what was the most difficult part about that period of their life?” I suggested.

Emma wrote, “You can ask and please say that if this question causes stress to not answer and next week I will ask a fun question.”

“That is such a thoughtful and kind thing to say, Emma,” I told her.

Before we ask for other people to share their experiences with either of these questions, Emma and I asked Richard to talk about “actions taken that get responses you don’t want.”

Richard said, “I put work out into the world, like my book and I want people to enjoy it, but some people say all kinds of nasty things, or let’s say I wrote a blog post and my intention is to be helpful to Autistic people and advocate for them, but because I’m not Autistic and I am highly opinionated, maybe I write things that are actually offensive to the very people I’ve meant to help.”

I asked Richard if this had really happened to him or if the last part was hypothetical.

“It’s hypothetical, but I certainly am capable of doing something like that.  People can do all kinds of things with good intentions that don’t get great responses.  To me the question is – what if you do things that you think are going to be helpful to yourself and other people and they aren’t and they aren’t appreciated either.”

I told Emma I would write about my experience with both these questions, so beginning with the first – actions taken that get responses you don’t want.

Saying something that is taken in a way I didn’t mean, particularly if it causes upset, anger or comes across as offensive.  There have been times when I’ve said something and not realized it was offensive until much later, but there have been other times when I’ve said something or asked a question and it’s been taken as meaning more than simply information gathering.


One of the things I really love about this question is that it’s one of those topics people don’t often talk about, at least not with any personal specifics unless it’s about someone else (often without that person’s permission) or in small groups.  So here’s the trigger warning – if the topic of puberty causes you stress, stop reading, otherwise, please join in and share a memory or an experience of going through puberty.  What was it like?  What was most challenging?  Please keep this about your own experience.  If you want to remain anonymous, you can always send your comment to the blog email address:  emmashopeblog@gmail.com or you can DM us on Emma’s Hope Book Facebook page.

We asked Richard to start things off: (insert smiley face here)

“It was the late sixties and early seventies and I became obsessed with – when will I have cool looking sideburns? –  I remember doing drawings of sideburns and imagining what my sideburns could look like.  I remember a lot of thinking about sideburns. They were emblematic of becoming a man.”

Okay, so I can’t really ask readers to share if I’m not willing to do the same, so here goes:

One of the more troubling memories I have of puberty was when I began to develop breasts and wanting to have them because most of the girls in my class already did and I was taunted by the boys at my school for not having any breasts.  They would yell, “hey flatsy!” at me when they passed me in the hallway or whisper it to me during recess.

But I also hated that I was developing them.  I had both feelings at once.  There was shame about my body for not looking like the other girls, but also fear and shame that I would.  I remember lying on my stomach at night, thinking this might limit or reduce their growth, only to put small wads of kleenex in my “training” bra to see what I would look like once I had them.

The larger issue, though I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, was the conflict of growing older and being excited by this, yet part of me wanted to stay a kid. And there was terror too.  I was going to say “fear,” but it was more than fear, it was real terror at the idea of looking more adult like and less kid like, coupled with growing into a woman’s body and not liking the attention that elicited, which interestingly enough ties this answer to Emma’s first question about – “actions taken that get responses you don’t want”  and very much encapsulates the essence of all that was problematic and difficult for me about puberty.

We’re turning these questions over to all of you now…

1.  Actions taken that get responses you don’t want

2. Puberty – what was your experience or a memory of that time in your life?


When Confronted With Parenting Questions, What Do You Do?

Someone asked me recently a question about teaching personal hygiene to their nonverbal child.  This was a question about shaving, in this case legs, but it could have been about underarms and certainly could apply to young men’s facial hair as well.  It got me thinking about  how I doubt my gut instincts or at least question them or perhaps even ignore them when it comes to my Autistic daughter and why that is.  This post is not well thought out, I’m just going to say that right from the beginning.  I’m mulling this over and would love other’s feedback.  Think of this post as a doodle pad and feel free to add your own doodles.

I’ve noticed that when confronted with a question about how to move forward with either of my children I use a couple of different methods to figure out what to do.  First I speak with Richard, then in Nic’s case, I’ll speak with him and ask a lot of questions, then I usually will speak with Richard again, sometimes he will have gone to Nic and the two of them will have talked about whatever it is too.  We will then discuss, often getting sidetracked with our own histories, there will be lots of comparing notes and then if both of us are still unsure as to how best to proceed we will ask friends, look for literature on the subject, go to the internet, seek professional help, call my mother.   (This last is said in jest, sort of, except that sometimes it’s been true.)  The point is there are a number of steps we typically take and so far this approach has worked out pretty well.

But what about when your kid’s language is limited or nonexistent, what then?  This is where the part of my brain that is firmly rooted in neurotypical thinking gets into a rut, like a record that keeps skipping until you pick the needle up and physically place it elsewhere.  I want to change my thinking when it comes to parenting my daughter.  I don’t like that I don’t automatically go to her and try to find other ways to communicate with her.  I want to make a concerted effort to do things differently, because here’s the thing, Emma has shown me countless times that she can and does have an opinion on any number of topics.  I may not have the kind of conversation I can expect to have with my son, it may take more planning, it may not be as “easy” but it is possible.  I have to train myself.   I have to teach myself and here’s the big revelation – often it takes me a while to learn, but I can and DO learn if I’m patient with myself and give myself the time and encouragement I need.

A couple of months ago I asked Ib (totally and unabashedly giving her new blog, Tiny Grace Notes AKA Ask An Autistic,  a plug here because it’s a much-needed and awesome resource, she’s brilliant and I love her, I love you too, Richard, but in a more, you know, marriage-y kind of way :D) anyway, I wanted Ib’s help in trying to interpret some of Em’s scripts.  Ib and I brainstormed, but what became clear was that I was looking for a key to unlock her language as I understood it and what Ib kept (patiently) trying to explain to me was that I would never be able to achieve a word for word translation.  At one point Ib said, “Do  you speak another language?”  And I said, “No.  I barely speak English, but if you think learning Russian will help me, I’ll learn it.”  Ib (I imagined her taking a long, deep, breath) said, and I’m paraphrasing now, No you don’t need to learn Russian, but you need to try to feel what the emotion is in what she’s saying.

At the time, I was completely freaked out, couldn’t understand what she was talking about, but then after a few more conversations, and thankfully Ib didn’t give up on me, I began to understand, I think, what she meant.  My literal mind wants a word for word translation, but that doesn’t work.  So I’m learning to train myself to ‘hear’ her words differently, which brings me back to the first paragraph regarding questions about parenting and teaching and puberty and everything else.  I admit, I’m fumbling my way along here.  I don’t have any concrete answers, but I do know that listening is a huge piece in all these questions.  Listening to my children, listening to their sensory needs, but also listening to my own instincts.

Questions about puberty, hygiene, shaving and other such matters, I will continue to seek advice, particularly from my Autistic friends, while also taking into account my specific child first and foremost.  If it’s a question that is ‘optional’ such as leg shaving, how does my child feel, is it important to them, do they care, are they interested?  On issues like teeth brushing, where negligence will result in cavities and larger problems, I don’t think twice.  I started teaching both my children how to floss and brush their teeth when they were toddlers.  Both kids need to be reminded, but I don’t grapple with whether I’m doing the right thing, I know I am, I know how important it is.  But some of this other stuff, I begin to second guess myself.

Em and I have a routine at night.  When it’s bedtime she’ll say to me, “Mommy come.”  So I will go into her room with her where she lies down and then pats the bed so that I will lie down next to her.  In the past she’s said, “Mommy read story.”  And I have.  But for the last few weeks she hasn’t said that, but instead has talked.  At first it sounded like scripting, but when I listened to her I realized she was talking about people and school, the bus, sleepovers, listing people she misses or things she wants to do, just the way my son used to do when he still wanted me to lie next to him at night.  So I started asking her, “Hey Em, would you like me to read to you or do you want to talk first?”  Every single night Emma responds, “Talk first, then read.”

And honestly.  How awesome and amazing is that?

“Talk first, then read.”

Em, Nic and Friend