Over the years I have heard reports from many parents about “puberty regression”. I didn’t doubt them by any means and trust me, I still don’t now that we are in the throes of puberty. What I don’t understand is the mechanisms behind it (although I have some ideas now) and I’m not sure you can use the word “regression” per say, but more “an overall worsening” from where they were before puberty.
It seems that we are in the throes of that right now. I wasn’t sure I was going to write about it but then again..someone should. I don’t want any parent thinking that its smooth sailing because we did 196 rounds on him. I wish that were the case but struggles still happen even this far into it. Puberty is rough on all humans…but it is exceptionally so in autistic children.
Just the sensory implications of puberty alone are massive. Some of the protests we see involve the need to wash more often. Being unhappy about all this hair that’s growing everywhere. It itches, feels weird etc. Addressing shaving with a kid that won’t put water on his face. Being more clumsy because they are growing faster than their balance system can keep up. This is also the time we start expecting more of our kids….”it’s high school ya know, time to buckle down”. It’s the old “what are you going to do with your life, you’re almost an adult”, except emotionally most our teens are not at this level of maturity. For whatever reason children on the spectrum often have delayed emotional maturity compared to their neurotypical peers.
We have to take a step back and remind ourselves….they are not at the same place their same age NT peers are or where you were at that age.
It’s so much pressure on changing bodies that are already overwhelmed with coping with things NT’s don’t notice.
The change in hormones is expected but this is also when kids with low adrenal and thyroid function really start struggling and need treatment for those things. Less cortisol means more anxiety, low thyroids mean more fatigue and more anxiety as it drags the adrenals down too.
This is some of what we are seeing with my son:
- a reappearance of anxiety. He’s been free of this and off adrenal support for quite a while…then Wham….it’s back! Turns out his thyroid went. Treating it helping the anxiety issue as well as restarting adrenal cortex glandular.
- We are also seeing a lot of sleep disturbances, they stay up late, sleep in late. Some changes in circadian rhythm are normal at this age. It shifts back again in their 20s. However, frequent night wakings or waking up at 2am wide awake indicates they need more adrenal support.
- Don’t think they don’t also have some teen rebellion because I’m seeing it manifest as refusing to take supplements or not wanting to stay gluten-free.
- Expressing some fears or exacerbation of old fears: to germs, bugs etc. (this is coming from adrenal fatigue most of the time)
It’s complex….I’m learning….it’s our first run with puberty with a kid on the spectrum.*
I did his ATEC again today because I thought maybe I was imagining the transformation I’ve been seeing..but no..I’m not imagining it. His ATEC was 19….NINETEEN! ACK! What happened?
You might recall it was Zero only two years ago (2015). Two steps forward…one back…keep marching…..
We will get back to zero because we are addressing the endocrine problems and we keep chelating! It’s all par for the course and we need to remind ourselves that even non-toxic teens experience shifts in their bodies during this time that may affect behavior. The key is making sure it’s not adrenal fatigue or hypothyroidism which do become more obvious during these years if they have it.
**Update: As of May 2018 his ATEC is 2, so we are regaining our previous progress after addressing adrenals/thyroid which are issues that typically get worse during puberty.