Puberty is when the body develops from being a child to becoming an adult. Boys and girls start to turn into men and women.
For many people, entering puberty (or their child entering puberty) is a time of big changes and big transitions. Often, the better prepared we are to face those changes, the better the outcomes and least disruptive we find the changes.
If your child has a disability, there can be extra challenges understanding what is happening and to manage some aspects of puberty. Speak with your GP, community nurse or occupational therapist about ideas to best manage the puberty years and beyond.
Puberty for girls usually begins between 9 and 11 years old. The ovaries produce a hormone called oestrogen, which triggers changes in the body. These include breast development; widening of the hips; hair growth under the arms and in the pubic area; growth spurt; muscle development and commencement of menstruation (periods), pimples and body odour.
Puberty for boys is usually around 12 or 13 years old. The production of the hormone testosterone triggers changes in the body. These include genital growth; nocturnal emission (wet dreams); frequent erections; hair growth under the arms, pubic area and face; voice changes; pimples; body odour; growth spurt and muscle development.
For more information on puberty and puberty and disability:
Protective behaviours and staying safe
When puberty begins, it is a good time to begin speaking about protective behaviours and staying safe.It is also important to consider the emotional changes a person may go through at this critical time. If your child also has an intellectual disability, it can be challenging for them to understand what is happening.
Some people may become sexually active during their late puberty / adolescence years. If this is the case it is important to discuss contraception and sexual health.
Speak to your general practitioner (GP), paediatrician, occupational therapist, social worker or psychologist for support.
Agencies you may be interested in:
Sexuality, Education, Counselling and Consultancy Agency (SECCA) – information support for consumers, families and professionals printed and DVD resources available to loan
People First Programme – part of Family Planning Association of WA, provides information support for consumers, families and professionals
Protective Behaviours WA – safety and vulnerability support
Secret Girls Business- recommended book for young people with disabilities entering puberty (boys and girls version)