Some women just love the concept of menstruation….being a woman, being in cycles with the planets and the moon and the oceans….
I am NOT one of them. I have always hated getting my period. Thankfully I have spent much of the past decade NOT getting one. No, not due to menopause, but because I take birth control to keep it away due to a chronic headache condition.
And, thankfully, since I have two boys and am approaching my 50s, soon my days of even thinking about my period, anyone’s period, will be over.
But, if you have a daughter, you’re not so lucky. Let’s face it, even for neurotypical non-disabled women, it can be a pain in the butt. (Or the abdomen, I suppose.) But you add in lack of working memory, communication issues, sensory issues….oh boy!
This is one of those topics that many people, not just men, don’t want to talk about. Occasionally it comes up in the Facebook group, and so I have decided to compile the advice and resources so that parents have something to work with.
helping your disabled daughter navigate her period
First, let’s talk about the period before her first period.
To the best of yours and her ability, you need to prepare her for this. After all, at some point, unexpectedly….she’s going to start bleeding. And, if you don’t know that it’s coming or is a possibility, it could be quite scary. That was one of the biggest takeaways I saw in the conversations online–letting her know! There are books, DVDs and even social stories that discuss periods and menstruation.
social stories that discuss periods and menstruation
- Social Story About MENSTRUATION for Autism and Special Education
- getting my period social story
- “all girls get their period” social story and tips for using it
I Have My Period – PECS Autism Social Skills Story
Remember, if it takes your daughter a long time to adjust to changes and learn new concepts, this likely will not be any different. Start early!
When she gets her first period
More explaining will be necessary. I would talk with your child’s doctor(s), school nurse and behaviorist. You may need to include other professionals if your daughter has sensory issues and may be under or over sensitive to the feelings.
You also need to talk with your pharmacist if your child is on medications and what they can do or take if cramps are an issue.
Keep a calendar! Non-disabled women have all kinds of changes associated with their periods. Many of us exhibit undesirable behaviors during this time. For me, I’d get a headache that would last 4-5 days. Food cravings, nausea, cramps and pain, moodiness, increased behaviors, increased or decreased sleeping, increased seizures….all kinds of things can happen as the body changes, so keep a calendar so that you can predict what may happen.
Just like you would for yourself, you’re going to have to go through trial and error of what products and clothing work for you during this time. Many parents suggested the period panties.
birth control or no birth control for your disabled daughter?
This is a topic to be discussed with the girl, her parents and her doctor. There are implants, shots and other forms of long term birth control that may prevent periods from happening at all. Or, they may increase the frequency and flow! Side effects can vary greatly from woman to woman, so get all the information you can.
If you believe that your daughter is in early puberty, talk to an endocrinologist.
Do I have to put menstruation in her IEP?
Maybe, maybe not. It’s going to depend on the female. Some are ok with using the typical restroom and carrying a purse or backpack. Some will need assistance and scheduled visits to the nurse’s office…..and everything in between.
If your daughter does need assistance, I highly recommend getting it put in the IEP. You can do this as a no-meet addendum to the IEP with simple accommodations.
suggestions for SDIs/accommodations for menstruation in an IEP
- parent will notify teacher/team leader via email/text each time Student begins menstruation
- after receiving notification, teacher will verbally prompt student to visit nurse’s office every day at 10:30 and 12:30 for 1 week
- student’s supplies for menstruation and a change of clothing will be kept in the nurse’s office and parent will be responsible for replenishing
- during each visit during this time, nurse will verbally prompt student to “xyz”
You get the idea, right?
I wish it didn’t have to be a part of the IEP and that these things would just be taken care of. However after a decade of this, I have met too many families whose children had bathroom accidents and were not changed or assisted. Better to just have it in there.
I hope this helps, as always, you can ask in the group and there are many of parents who have already been down this path. If you have any helpful tips or ideas, feel free to leave a comment below.