Yesterday I spent the day at a local children's centre, on a cygnet puberty course.
Cygnet is a series of training courses put together by Dr Barnados, covering various aspects of autism and aims to help us parents become experts in more specific areas of our children's lives. I'm still waiting to complete the siblings course (something we desperately need!), anger management (again, something we need) and sensory, which I'm fairly confident about, but think there will still be loads to learn.
If a child has a diagnosis of an ASD, these courses can be accessed by referral. For us this was through school, but if the diagnosis is through the NHS, I think the referral is automatic following the diagnosis, but do ask about cygnet training, it's well worth taking part.
Waiting times can be long, and if you do get a letter or email inviting you to take part, respond as quickly as you can, or you'll miss it! I learnt this a while ago as making phone calls are very anxiety inducing, and by the time I rang, all the places had been filled!
I did email to explain why my response had been late, and they were happy for me to email acceptance instead, so if this might be a difficulty for you, it is worth letting someone know that you'd rather email a response instead of making a phone call.
The content of the puberty course was very good, and the two leaders this time were excellent, and managed to make what could have been awkward and embarrassing, informative and humorous.
One of the leaders was the lady who had supported PDA boy before we deregistered him, which immediately gave me confidence and made me feel more at ease.
Topics were covered very openly, I think where autistic children are involved there's no room for vague language, and this course was no different. Potential problems were approached clearly, with no ambiguity.
A recommended book, which is one we will be buying, especially as PDA boy is no longer in school, is Making Sense of Sex: A Forthright Guide to Puberty by Sarah Attwood (yes, she's married to Tony Attwood).
The book approaches the subject of sex in a very factual, scientific way, so may appeal to many of our children and can be used as a quick reference guide when there are questions we don't know the answer to, or used by our children if they don't want to ask the questions themselves.
As I found with the main cygnet course last year, I learnt as much about myself as I did strategies for PDA boy when he hits puberty.
Several well hidden memories were unearthed which was unexpected and quite uncomfortable, but enlightening at the same time, giving me tools to fit together further mysteries of my teenage years, and gives me further reassurance that I am indeed a part of the autistic community (even though I shouldn't really need that reassurance!).
I strongly feel that late diagnosed adults should be able to access Cygnet courses (or an adult alternative) for their own benefit, to enable them to learn better who they are and make sense of what were probably confusing childhoods and teenage years.
I'm not going to give details of the course content, it's not my place to do so and I couldn't do it justice anyway, but if you have a child coming up to the golden age of puberty, I highly recommend trying to get a place on this course.
And this concludes my shortest blog post to date!