While we acknowledge that menstruation can be a source of anxiety for many, having an additional support need or being neurodivergent, can mean it produces more and/or different challenges. In this context, an additional support need refers to a disability, be that physical or learning and/or a neurodivergent profile, such as autism, sensory processing disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These issues may present added anxiety and sensory difficulties in managing the physical sensations of bleeding and using period products. They may also mean that the emotional and hormonal aspects of their cycle are more difficult to manage.
Depending on your child's profile or level of understanding, it is important that you prepare them as much as possible for what to expect during their menstrual cycle and particularly their period. What is it? Why does it happen? How much might they bleed? What might it feel like? What might they use to help? How do they dispose of period products? Arm yourself with knowledge. Make a GP or nurse appointment with your child about their period, if they would find that helpful. Watch videos online or read about it. Normalise it as much as possible.
If there is someone in your household that experiences a period, it is helpful to have no shame around discussing it and discussing it with appropriate terminology. This means that your young person will be more likely to feel able to ask questions around it and be able to communicate in detail to others if there is a problem. This should not be a ‘once in a lifetime’ conversation – it is imperative, particularly if your child has difficulty around understanding and processing to explain again and again, with enough preparation time. It can be helpful to show your child period products and how they work – you can get creative here using water, cornflour and red food colouring or jam and water to make it as realistic as possible. Allow them to feel and touch the products and remove all mystery. Practice using some period products like reusable pads, disposable pads and period underwear to anticipate any sensory worries early and/or establish a routine. Trying different period products may be trial and error.
If your child needs visuals to access the world or communicate, introduce these as early as possible and model their delivery. Give a copy into their school, if appropriate to keep communication as consistent as possible. Encourage your child’s school to speak about periods in an age appropriate way when assisting your child with personal care, if appropriate to you. Speak to your child about who it is appropriate to talk about their period with and who is a safe adult. Be prepared with some answers to some scenario based questions and how they might cope if they, for example, leak period blood onto their clothes, if they are in any pain or if they are worried about other symptoms that may be related to their period.
Bloody Amazing has helped many families with period and person-centered visuals. We have also provided resources for schools. If you think we can help with limited visuals and/or social stories for your young person/young people, to discuss needs and pricing, please use the button below.
If your child has particular sensory or physical difficulties, they may find period products unbearable to have against their skin. There are lots of alternatives to the period products that we are used to. For some children, it may just be a case of finding a looser more comfortable alternative such as going from period briefs to period boxers. Free bleeding is also an option (allowing them to bleed on their clothes or pyjamas while sitting on an absorbent surface or absorbent bed pad. Periods can be difficult to navigate for those who may not understand their purpose or be able to communicate their physical or emotional landscape, so it is about prioritising their comfort and making it as easy a time as possible for them.