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Shedding Light on the Menstrual Experiences of Autistic Youth

In the past decade, there has been a rise in awareness around the menstrual experiences of autistic youth. Research results have been instrumental in raising awareness around this topic, showing that periods are often more challenging for autistic menstruators due to intensified sensory sensitivities as well as behavioral and mood fluctuations. Autistic menstruators also report more bleeding complaints and painful abdominal cramps than non-autistic persons. Since puberty often occurs at an accelerated rate for autistic youth, there is an even greater need to make periods easier for autistic menstruators.

A research initiative at the University of Utah is shedding light on the menstrual experiences of autistic youth who have recently started their periods. Specifically, Keely Lundy, a doctoral candidate in the University of Utah’s School Psychology Program, hopes to determine which menstrual products are most preferred by this population and why.

Eligible youth will receive popular menstrual products (e.g., disposable menstrual pads, tampons, a reusable menstrual pad, a menstrual cup, and period underwear) to try during their period. The youth will then complete a short survey assessing which product they most preferred to use and why they didn’t like or use others.

The youth’s caregiver will also participate by completing a survey on the features that are most influential when buying menstrual products for their autistic youth. Product features may include cost, environmental impact, or perceived sensory sensitivity. Both surveys are brief, written in English, and can be accessed on any web-enabled device (e.g., phone, tablet, computer).

It is the researcher’s hope that the results from this study can assist families when purchasing period products for their autistic youth. The study’s results may also inform menstrual companies on how to improve their products to meet the needs of all menstruators. Including those with special healthcare needs. Finally, the study will be shared with a diverse range of academic and colloquial audiences to increase awareness on menstrual equity and inclusion among all menstruators, both autistic and non-autistic.

Keely Lundy, M.Ed.
University of Utah

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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