About Jan Martin

Mom, blogger, author, and parent biomed coach in the autism community that enjoys writing, homesteading and learning self sustainable living.

Puberty Setbacks…..it’s real tho

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.


Where we have gotten with sensory therapy

So we had our two visits with the occupational sensory therapist to set up a program and then follow-up on how it was going. As I had talked about in the previous post on this I was a bit overwhelmed with the information from the first visit. We were supposed to go back in 2 weeks but of course they did not have an opening that soon so it was nearly a month. She originally wanted to see us in 2 weeks to check on how we were doing with the protocol in case we were having trouble.

That would have been nice to do because waiting a full month was a mess for us. We were having trouble. What happened was we did it for 3 days and my son began complaining that he didn’t like the way it felt. He said it bothered him and he began to refuse to let me do the joint compressions or deep pressure. He would only use his exercise ball, therapy putty and chew gum. (by the way I found great all natural bubble gum)

So I had to wait a month to find out what we were supposed to do now.

Turns out it’s normal for him to feel that way when you start this therapy. She hadn’t told us that before we started it but it would have been nice to know. The therapist explained it’s because he went so long without any treatment for it so now his nervous system was rebelling.

She recommended we modify the therapy to just activities he could do on his own from a list of heavy work activities. This way, no one would have to touch him.

The real hard part here is he’s a nearly 15 year old Aspie who isn’t sure he wants to take 10 minutes out every 2 hours to do this. That’s a tough sell for an older kid so in the interim he’s doing it when he can and I remind him to do it when I can. Not ideal but better than nothing and it has helped some doing it that way.

We had a few times in the past few weeks when he could touch paper, or wet his head in the shower or put water on his face. Some days are better than others depending on how much sensory diet activities he does.

With winter upon us…and lots more time indoors to focus on getting those exercises done closer to the 2 hours mark I hope we can make this work. What is promising is that I’ve seen progress…and that’s huge for us because sensory has been his worst symptom for a long time now.


OT Appointment follow-up

We have our follow-up with the occupational therapist and I found the appointment very informative but it was honestly a lot of information to cram into 30 minutes. I felt like I understood everything until I got home and felt really overwhelmed by it. I kept trying to go over what she showed me in my head to recall everything we are supposed to do and I’m not sure I got it really.

So I went through all the handouts I got and then headed to YouTube to look for videos to help refresh me on the techniques I was shown.  The OT decided not to do Wilbarger on him but rather a combination of sensory diet, joint compressions and what are called “squishes”.  “Squishes” involve the application of deep pressure to the muscles in the arms and legs using my hands. This seems to be achieve the same thing as brushing but because he’s so defensive she felt it would be less invasive than brushing.

The primary issues now are implementing this rigid protocol every 2 hours at home with cooperation from a teen. Oh, and also fitting real life in there some where. I do think this is much easier if you have a toddler. We homeschool so that needs to be done daily also.