Sunday, October 27, 2013

Puberty: Time Out for Touching??!!!

Alert to moms raising teen boys, here’s a candid tidbit about puberty.  I just learned something, and just in case I’m the only one who didn't know, please don’t laugh too loud!  In my own defense I’m a single mom, who was raised by a single mom. I have no brothers and we didn't have family gatherings complete with lots of boys and girls so I confess I've got information gaps. 

My son is 15 and he has become very aware, if not enamored with his private parts. He rubs up against people, pushes pillows or stuffed toys into his groin, and has no problem putting his hands there anytime anywhere. Last week we were in a restaurant, he went at it, and I mixed one part humor with one part frustration and said “If you don’t stop it, I’m going with the "You’ll go blind line”. YES, I did go there. Not to worry, he was too preoccupied to hear me, but his sister laughed, defended him and then tapped him in the arm to make him stop. 

Yesterday we had a team meeting with Nick's behavior support team and puberty was a key topic. When some of the team determined that Nick should be able to take breaks and go to the bathroom upon request, I freaked out! I’m thinking OH NO YOU DON"T!  All I could think - as a mom - was, I do not want him being encouraged to participate in what they were so politely calling “release” behavior at school, or anywhere besides his own room or bathroom. This is private, and should not be encouraged in any public setting, even a bathroom stall. I was freaking out, my mind raced with stories of our kids and obsessions with pornography  and scenarios where he would be "releasing" and someone would walk in, call him a pervert and he would get hauled off to lord knows where. And what are we encouraging - I want him to learn control not permission!!!

But when I voiced my opinion and my concern that we were encouraging behavior that I thought could get him in trouble, and send the wrong message; the men in the meeting looked at me like I was crazy. They were not happy!  They said I was dead wrong.  I thought I was making perfect sense, and I fought back. This began a detailed dialog full of tings I never knew, most enlightening was it seems boys at this age get aroused all the time and no sexual stimuli is required. I thought girls and other exciting things caused the erections, but I've been corrected it’s not just about girls, women or sex stuff. Rather their bodies go on a kind of auto pilot, and erections happen anytime and anywhere. Seems this is the age with it really has a mind of its own.  So the guys consider it a non-sexual body function at this age. They said they have to release it, and if they don’t bad things happen. They said in my guys case if we don’t let him, or create an opportunity for him to, he will just get frustrated and agitated and in time instead of getting  the result we are looking for which is control, or his ability to control himself  we will get a kid who’s frustrated which could result in all kinds of increased negative behaviors.  So we let's the men lead on this one. However, I will be shifting the focus of his program to impulse control!   Here’s the plan we implemented after this heated debate:

The team has discussed appropriate times of the day and appropriate places for  NJ to have his own time or private time.  The team agreed to be consistent with using appropriate language with NJ by stating private time or I need my own time.  The team agreed to redirect NJ to his bedroom and to use the top bed of his bunk bed for his own time.  The team agreed to give NJ 10-15 minutes before he is given a transition signal to get ready to begin his homework and chores.  The team agreed to give NJ his space and to NOT enter his bedroom.  The team agreed to give verbal prompts or transition signals outside of NJ’s bedroom by standing in the hallway. 

At school, NJ will be given time to use the restroom and will be given extra time if he has a bowel movement.  The team will redirect NJ to use his own time at home and not at school.  The team is also working with NJ on keeping his hands to himself and to keep an appropriate distance with others, especially women.  The team agreed to have a zero tolerance for this at school and in the home setting.  NJ will be redirected to step away and will be given time to himself to think about his choices.  The BII will redirect NJ to explain what happened and if it was an appropriate choice or not.  He will then be asked to explain why.  NJ will not earn free choice at the end of the day for grabbing or pulling himself into others while he is at school or in the community. 


  1. I think your concerns about public restrooms are valid. This is not a place to be caught with your pants down!

  2. Lord knows people- much less teenagers - do all kinds of things when they think they are alone and nothing bad ever comes of it. However, it is illegal to do a private act in a public place and that includes a private in a stall in a restroom. I get the guys point of view, but too dangerous for our kids who have not social filters!

  3. Donna,
    I love what you put out. This can help soooo many parents….and teachers!

  4. Hi, Donna. I hope you are doing well. I wanted to say thank you for writing Autism Day By Day, I read every installment with great interest. It is a great service to the autism community!
    I have been very busy with a project that I think will be of great interest to you and to your readers.
    I am sending you a link about the launch of BE SAFE the Movie and BE SAFE Teaching Edition. With the help of many people, including young adults with disabilities, I have created two teaching tools with a single purpose: To help keep youth and adults with ASD and similar disabilities be when they interact with the police.
    BE SAFE The Movie and BE SAFE Teaching Edition are resources that can help parents, educational professionals and service providers build skills and understanding in the critical area of safety. Spanish subtitles and closed captions make The Movie accessible to diverse communities. Differentiated materials in the curriculum are suitable for a wide range of learners.
    It is very important to get the word out so that parents, teachers, professionals and staff can take steps to promote safety and avoid tragic encounters.
    I would really appreciate your help sharing this message in your networks. I am also doing screening and trainings if you know someone who might be interested. Best regards, Emily

  5. Hello Donna,

    I've worked with our kiddos in the private and public sector and agree with your behavior support team. As I had a five year old student who pleased himself, daily and spontaneously in the classroom, I was forced to research this dilemma at length. The consensus was privacy. Even for our young ladies with cognitive disabilities. Yes, it happens.

    We are taught that behavior functions: A. get something, B. get out of something or C. because it feels good. There is no replacement behavior for self gratification and the Only solution is to encourage/enforce privacy. Since the urge is uncontrollable as your male staff indicated, privacy is the only respectful, safe and reasonable solution until this developmental phase levels out.

    Karine Scott
    Behavior Interventionist and parent of a teenage boy

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  7. I am happy that you brought this subject to light! I am concerned about a teen boy in my class that doesn’t stop touching himself all day. It’s a difficult situation and the family is not concerned with it. They say it’s normal! Thanks for your perspective!