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Using a pad

Teaching your child how to use pads to manage their period can raise a lot of concerns for parents and carers.

Introduction

You may be worried about:

  • how your child will react to the feel of having a pad in their underwear
  • if your child will be able to understand how to use a pad correctly
  • if your child will be able to change their pad independently and hygienically
  • if they will need assistance to change their pad at school

These are all normal and valid concerns that are shared by a lot of parents. Encouragingly, we know that early preparation, education and practice can help children with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder to successfully manage their period both independently or with the support of others.

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It is important to allow your child as much time as possible to learn about periods. This can mean talking to your child about their changing body from an early age. This helps them to feel better prepared for when their period starts. To find out more about preparing your child for periods go to Talking About Periods.

It can also be good to give your child opportunities to familiarise themselves with pads and practice how to use them. This can be a good way to introduce your child to what it’s like to wear a pad.

Use a doll with removable clothes and underwear to practice changing pads.

  1. Cut panty liners to fit the size of the doll’s underwear
  2. Help your child to peel off the plastic backing and place the sticky side down on the doll’s underwear
  3. When your child is not looking use a red marker to colour the panty liner
  4. Explain that they will need to check the dolls underwear every day for the next few days. If there is red on the dolls pad it means they will have to change this pad for a new one
  5. Practice rolling up the old pad and putting it in a paper bag
  6. Put the paper bag in the bin

If you menstruate and you feel comfortable doing so, it can be helpful to show your child your period blood and how you use a pad. Reassure them that this is a normal part of being a woman. Explain that they will also have a period as they grow up. Show them how to remove a used pad and how to put on a new one.

Conversation Starters

Do you see those brightly coloured packets on the shelf over there? They are called pads. Do you know what they are?
Can you please put the pads in the bathroom draw? Your mum/sister uses pads when she has her period. Do you want me to show you what they look like?
You are growing up so quickly. You might get your period soon. Some women use pads when they have their period. Do you want to practice using a pad so you know what to do when your period starts?

Strategies for you to try

Social stories and visual schedules

Some children will be able to learn to change their pad independently. Others may need some help. This is OK. The following strategies can help your child to learn to change their pad as independently as possible.
Use social stories and visual schedules to remind your child how to change their pad. There are some good examples of social stories and a visual schedule for changing a pad listed below.
These can be put on the back of the toilet door at home or a copy can be kept in your child’s school bag.

Period kits

Put together a period kit for your child to keep in their school bag. Give them the opportunity to choose a fun bag or case to hold their special period things. In the bag put:
• spare pads
• a spare pair of underwear
• a small paper or plastic bag for dirty underwear
• visual schedule for changing a pad
• pain relief (if appropriate)
• a small treat like lip gloss

Describe what you’re doing as you do it

Not all children will be able to change their pad completely independently. This is OK. However, it is important to build your child’s skills and support them to do as much of the process independently as possible. This may be as simple as helping them to remove the plastic from the sticky side of the pad. Over time you can continue to support them to do more of the process if possible.
When you are assisting your child to change their pad you can help them to learn the steps of the process by describing what you are doing as you do it. It is also good to frequently check in with them by asking ‘is this ok?’ This tells your child that taking care of their body is important and that they can tell you if they are uncomfortable. This practice should also be carried out by any other support people helping your child to change their pad.

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