Friday, November 19, 2010

Teaching Girls About Menstruation

A popular topic in circles of parents of girls with disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities, is menstruation. There are many parents who are raising little girls whose bodies are going to start having monthly periods whether comprehension and cognition has caught up or not. Can you imagine teaching a toddler how to self-care during a menstrual period??? Yes, it happens to young women whose bodies outgrew the rest of their development.

How on earth does a mom or teacher go about that? I'd rather avoid the whole subject, but that's not reality, is it?

One answer is to go about it the same way that moms of typically developing young ladies go about it. And I stumbled across a company that helps moms teach and show their daughters about a menstrual period, before and during it.

I learned about Dot Girls in a Kotex ad. I spent some time browsing the Dot Girls web site. Sisters Terri Goodwin and Kathy Pickus founded Dot Girls to help us parents out, to provide information and supplies for explaining and handling a first period. They have developed a neat little Dot Girl First Period Kit® and offer a little paperback by JoAnn Loulan and Bonnie Worthen, PERIOD. A Girl's Guide ($9.99 / 76 pages) for this very purpose.

I have purchased several books for and about girls entering adolescence. My homeschooler, a daughter who happens to be on the autism spectrum who is a pre-teen, happens to have a big sister who is a teenager, and as I look through the books I purchased for my older daughter, I'm not sure they're developmentally appropriate for my younger daughter who has developmental delays. The book Dot Girls sells intrigued me enough to contact them about the book and the kit. Kathy told me they hadn't thought about the community of users with developmental delays. (I wouldn't have had I not been in this situation.) They were happy to send me a book and a kit (although I had to wait for the new kit to come out in August).

PERIOD. A Girl's Guide is written to offer the facts about menstruation without discussing sex. Yes, it offers sketches of body parts. Yes, it discusses feelings, mood swings, body changes. Yes, it is aimed at typically developing girls, and yes, I will have to figure out as I go along where my daughter's understanding lies and where I have to add to or modify information. It is an excellent starting place (in my opinion) compared to the other books I've seen. For a young woman who is developmentally delayed academically, it is quite wordy and if your daughter is like mine, you may have to make some modifications to the text, rewrite it to simplify concepts, but it's one I feel comfortable handing to my daughter to look at, because it doesn't discuss sex ed (because I don't think she's ready for that, yet). It's excellent for my typically developing daughter, too (she has a few other books; she's ready for other content that she and I can discuss together).

The Dot Girls First Period Kit® ($19.99) is a perfect introduction to some of the products we girls use. It arrived swathed in beautiful pink tissue paper; I love that. Let's wrap all the menstruation stuff in a package that is a beautiful present! Dot Girls certainly helps mom create a positive atmosphere when talking about menstruation.

We received the pink pouch. It is so pretty and inviting; my homeschooler (on the autism spectrum) was interested in opening it to see what was inside, and the kit and the little booklet inside provided the perfect context to talk more with her about how her body is changing and that, at some point, she will begin to menstruate, and when she does, she'll use products like these. There are a few pads, a little heating pad (okay, it's really small), some wipes, some bags for disposing used pads.

We've been talking about periods more (on and off) for the past couple of months, since my book and later, my kit arrived. The kit has been an incredible visual, hands-on, in-context tool for us, and we get it out every so often and remove the items and put them back into the pouch and talk about them. She asks more questions each time. Having the kit gives us opportunities to discuss it over time, allowing her processing time that she needs. I'd brought up the subject before learning about Dot Girls, and I attempted to begin to explain a period, and found it challenging with a child who is often more like an early elementary schoolage girl than a preteen. She's going to bloom into a young woman whether her academics are caught up or not.

Recently, I started my period unexpectedly and headed to the bathroom in a hurry. Little Bit wanted to know why, and I told her, I think I started my period. And she got her kit for me, told me I could use some of her pads if I wanted. ;) How sweet!

Thank you, Dot Girls, for the absolutely wonderful and pretty tool, the kit, and the information, the book, to help me introduce periods to my girl who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Having all of the resources in one pretty package is so much better than a big ol' package of pads. You've given us a friendly resource that we continue to revisit together as my girl gets closer to adolescence.

Dot Girls has a facebook page here.

I received a Dot Girl First Period Kit® and a copy of PERIOD. A Girl's Guide at no cost to me so that I could review them here, on my blog. I received no money for this review and am not obligated to write a positive review.

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