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Challenges Faced by Autistic Teenagers During Puberty

Puberty is a challenging time for any teenager, but it can be particularly difficult for Autistic teenagers. Autistic teenagers experience the same physical and hormonal changes as their neurotypical peers, but they may struggle with the social and emotional aspects of puberty. From personal experience and, feedback from many parents and carers is that puberty, can be a tumultuous time. So, we asked, how we can best support our Autistic children as they navigate this often-confusing time.

How Does Puberty Affect Autistic adolescents?

Autistic teenagers already face immense pressure to conform and “fit in” navigating a world predominately built for their neurotypical peers. Puberty can add a unique set of challenges compounded by barriers they face day to day.

During puberty, teenagers experience physical changes such as growth spurts, body hair, and acne. Hormonal changes can also lead to mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. Autistic teenagers may struggle with these changes, as they may find it difficult to communicate their feelings and emotions. They may also have difficulty understanding social cues and may feel overwhelmed by the changes happening around them.

It may also be a time of mental health concerns as your young persons struggles to adapt to thier changing body and feelings and emotions.

However, surprisingly the scientific community has largely overlooked this pivotal stage of development in the lives of Autistic adolescents, disregarding the significant biological transformations that occur alongside it.

Read More: Puberty and autism: An unexplored transition


Adolescence can be an especially challenging period for young Autistic individuals. The unique characteristics of Autism, such as sensory sensitivities, emotional difficulties, repetitive behaviours, and difficulties understanding social cues, can make it particularly challenging for them to navigate their changing sexual interests, friendships, and dating experiences. Autistic girls, in particular, may face additional social obstacles as they try to comprehend the complexities of interactions among their non-autistic peers.

Autistic adolescents also experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders compared to their non-autistic counterparts. In fact, a study conducted in 2006 revealed that 72 percent of 109 Autistic youth had depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition. Autistic teenagers are also more susceptible to seizures and may encounter difficulties in cognitive development. There has been a growing link between Epilepsy and Autism.

Why do Autism “Symptoms” change during puberty

During puberty, Autistic individuals may experience changes and challenges that can be attributed to hormonal shifts and the complex process of adolescence. However, it is important to note that the impact of puberty on Autism varies from person to person. Because of this not all individuals will necessarily experience a worsening of symptoms. While some individuals may find that certain aspects of their Autism become more pronounced or challenging during this time, others may actually experience improvements or stability in their symptoms. Factors such as individual differences in neurodevelopment, the presence of co-occurring conditions, and environmental influences all contribute to the unique experiences of individuals with Autism during puberty. It is crucial to provide appropriate support, understanding, and tailored interventions to help individuals navigate this transitional period successfully.

Read More: Understanding Autism and Self-Harm: Strategies to Support Individuals

How Can We Support Autistic Teenagers During Puberty?

There are several ways that parents, caregivers, and educators can support Autistic teenagers during puberty:

Start Preparing Early

Autistic children often need more time to adjust to and understand changes in their lives. Parents should start preparing their children for puberty early, so they have time to process the information and ask questions. Parents can use social stories, visual aids, and other resources to help their children understand the changes that are happening to their bodies.

Keep Communication Open

Communication is key during puberty. Parents should encourage their children to talk or express their feelings and emotions. This can be difficult; however, we suggest using videos, books and social prompts to initiate learning. Parents should also be open and honest about the changes that are happening to their bodies and answer any questions their children may have.

Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Autistic teenagers may feel overwhelmed by the changes happening around them. Parents should create a safe and supportive environment where their children feel comfortable expressing themselves. Parents can also work with educators to ensure that their children are getting the same messages at home and school.


Never be afraid to advocate for child’s accessibility needs when it comes to health classes facilitated by school. It may also help if you discuss any programs taught by your child’s school with your child before the scheduled class. This will ensure your child feels comfortable and is fully aware of content as to not be confused or embarrassed.

Seek Professional Help

If parents are concerned about their child’s behaviour or mental health during puberty, they should seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can help Autistic teenagers navigate the social and emotional challenges of puberty and provide support for any co-occurring conditions.

Resources available

Puberty is a challenging time for any teenager, but it can be particularly difficult for those on the Autism spectrum. Autistic teenagers experience the same physical and hormonal changes as their neurotypical peers, but they may struggle with the social and emotional aspects of puberty. Parents, caregivers, and educators can support autistic teenagers during puberty by starting early, keeping communication open, creating a safe and supportive environment, and seeking professional help when needed. With the right support, autistic teenagers can navigate puberty and emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side.

You can visit: Planet Puberty for useful resources on how to talk to your young person about Puberty..

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