Autism and Periods: How to Support Your Child
Autism and periods can be a tricky path to navigate. This blog post is as the result of ongoing feedback we receive from the parents of children on the autism spectrum who love that our period pants and reusable pads make it easier for their child. Here's a recent example:
"Exactly what we needed. These products have changed my autistic daughters experience and made her happy and comfortable again." Mrs C via Trustpilot
Here's our guide on how to support your child with autism on their period:
- How to talk to your autistic child about periods
- How to prepare your autistic child for their period
Managing periods is a big learning curve for any child, but add in autism and it becomes more complex. The amount of support your child will need will depend on their level of sensory struggles with their periods.
Autism doesn’t affect what age young people start their periods. However, autistic young people often need longer to adjust.
Additional challenges from sensory sensitivities, change in routine, and emotional regulation mean that early preparation and practice will be essential in making it an easier transition to make.
Senses can become more heightened during menstruation. Women often say that mood swings and their sense of smell becomes more sensitive during their period.
For autistic people, many report that their existing sensory difficulties are worse at this time. This renders them even more hypersensitive to noise, taste and smell making managing periods even harder.
Dealing with cramps and the physical side effects will also impact emotional regulation, meaning for some they may have more melt-downs, leaving them feeling exhausted.
The practical side of managing the change in routine each month, remembering what they need to have ready/with them and when to use it, the feeling of period products, sight of blood can be really challenging.
“My 11 year old daughter is autistic and started her periods earlier this year. Using washable or disposable pads has been an overwhelming sensory experience for her and has been incredibly stressful.
Period pants were always going to be an issue as she will only wear shorts/boxers rather than briefs. But thankfully I discovered your period shorts and that has genuinely changed her life!! Thank you so so much for making my daughter's experience less overwhelming.”
You should talk to your autistic child about periods as soon as possible, to prepare them for the change. Here’s how to talk to your autistic child about periods:
- Give clear descriptions and explanations for what will happen during their period
- Use proper anatomical terminology for body parts
- Visual support materials will help such as books, videos and social stories
Talk through the routine that will be needed during their period, maybe organise a visual planner for what will need to be remembered each day.
Think about where the challenges will be, for example managing at school, when out and about. Period pants are a great idea because they are good sensory wise but also don't massively change routine
Your child will need to know what period protection is. But first, you need to determine which type is right for your child.
- Start early by looking at the different types of products available
- They can then get used to the look and feel of products and decide which they think they can cope with the best. Sensory issues mean that certain materials, seams, or colours may need to be avoided
- Our experience has been that period underwear or period shorts are the easiest option as they aren't massively different from their usual knickers, and avoid the use of sanitary pads or tampons
- Having the right product can make all the difference!
"I ordered some period pants for my daughter who is highly sensitive to clothing. On the first try she didn't like them but it turns out I'd ordered the wrong size. I rang and spoke to the loveliest lady called Jo who listened to our experience and offered to send a larger size plus a reusable pad to try to take the feel of the elastic away for my daughter.
It was a success! My daughter now wears them and feels comfortable and confident. The pants themselves are lovely and soft and very well made as are the pads. We will definitely ordered again when she grows out of them." Via Trustpilot
No matter which type of protection your child chooses, you'll need to show them how to use it, step by step.
Thankfully that's easy with period pants. When their period is due, it's just choosing a slightly different pair of knickers which should minimise any difficulty in coping.
Period pants still need to be changed in line with flow. Generally that means clean pants morning, on return from school and then overnight. We have heavy flow options available too!
Period pants take a few washes to get to full absorbency so that's worth bearing in mind also. And a good fit is key to avoid leakages. If you're unsure on sizing, do drop us a line as we are always happy to help.
Menstrual hygiene and self care should also be considered as part of your preparation.
You might want to prepare your child with our first period starter kit, which includes a few reusable intimate wipes. These are extremely soft and make it easy for them to keep themselves feeling clean and fresh during the day and can just be chucked in the wash with their pants when used.
The period starter kit also contains one liner, a pair of cotton period pants, a wetbag and a bar of Green & Blacks choc, so it's a great gift to help welcome their period.
Your child may also benefit from the ability to track their menstrual cycle so they know when it's due. There are lots of apps available to help with this, we like Clue, but Eve and Magicgirl are also recommended. Our article on tracking your period has more ideas.
There's every possibility that your child may start their period at school. Help them be prepared for this with a wetbag containing what they need that they can keep in their school bag.
It would also be a good idea to let them know who to contact if they need assistance. Generally the school nurse or medical office is a good place to start but every school differs. Our article on periods at school offers more advice.
"We bought the pants for my 14 yr old, she has a physical disability, as well as autism, and using sanitary towels caused her serious frustration and upset every time she got her period.
So I’d been looking at different reusable products and a friend told me about Cheeky Wipes. I ordered the ‘Feeling Sporty’ started pack!
When they arrived in the post, my daughter was initially sceptical, as they are a much tighter fit than her usual underwear and I worried that she’d struggle with them on a sensory level. But she agreed to give them a go.
Game changer!! Her first period using the pants and no pad dramas, we’ve gone from upset and stress every day to absolute plain sailing. Really impressed! I wish I’d bought them ages ago. I really can’t tell you how much easier life has just become." Liz via Trustpilot
We hope this was beneficial to you. If so, you may also be interested in these:
About the Author: Erika Koskie is a Customer Service Expert at Cheeky Wipes. She answers our chat and emails daily - if Erika doesn't know the answer, no one will! Erika is also a foster carer and as such has been intimately involved in testing our reusable nappies on her foster babies! Outside of work, Erika loves horse riding and is often found at the stables or up on the downs.
The Cheeky customer services team pride themselves on providing honest, friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long, helping people make the switch to reusables! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.