Monday, May 19, 2014

Bra Fit For Special Needs Girls

This week is a guest blog from a fantastic special needs teacher who also happens to be my Mum. When we talk about good bra fit for everyone there really are no exceptions. Bra fit for special needs daughters can be daunting for parents so this post hopes to shed some light on the importance and techniques for dealing with bra fit for special needs girls.

"Talking to your adolescent daughter about puberty can be difficult enough but especially so if your daughter has learning difficulties of any kind. I am fortunate to be the Mum of two healthy girls and having worked hard to have good lines of communication we discussed puberty in terms of emotional and practical changes so that they were empowered to have choices over their bodies and understand what was happening to them. Having taught adolescent special needs students for 20 years I am acutely aware that these girls do not have the same capacity for understanding puberty or making choices about the changes to their body. Does this mean you don’t try to explain or address puberty for special needs girls? Absolutely not.

The individuals within the special needs spectrum have a huge array of abilities and capacity for understanding so your communication with your child needs to be geared to them. It’s a mistake to think that being special needs automatically means you can’t talk about things like puberty and bras. Breast development is indiscriminate and as with any other girl your daughter deserves the physical and emotional support through her changing body whether you can explain it to her or seek out the right bra support on her behalf.

All too often parents of special needs girls do not address the needs of a pubescent daughter as though somehow being special needs means things like bras don’t apply. Lots of parents find it hard enough to discuss puberty with their children so adding a layer of mental and/or physical disability into the mix can be crippling for communication. Somehow we need to change this barrier between communication and puberty in special needs girls because many special needs girls develop at an early age and can have very heavy breasts and yet many of them are left without any bra support. In other cases, although a girl may be wearing a bra, it is obviously not a proper fit and regardless of your abilities being uncomfortable is horrible.

Being a special needs girl does not necessarily mean you are excluded from feeling embarrassed or self conscious. The kind of teenage behaviour you see in mainstream schools happens in special needs schools too. Kids notice and comment on each other’s bodies and the interest in sexual body parts is just as prevalent, if not more so. Being in the right bra gives a special needs girl some control back over her breasts, allows her to participate in physical activities more comfortably and adds a layer of privacy while her body is growing and changing.

I wish there was a checklist for how to help your special needs daughter with bra fit but it does depend hugely on her abilities and comprehension. Having said that here are some suggestions about bra fit and special needs that could help you give your daughter good breast support:

1) If you can talk to her about puberty then do! Talk about how the changes mean she is becoming a woman and as a woman she can start to choose the bras she would like to have to support her. Include her in the transition to bras and ask her what she thinks about wearing a bra. Explain to her that she can continue to do her favourite things without being uncomfortable, like playing basketball, or dancing or playing with her friends.

2) Be realistic about what kind of bras your daughter can physically get into and wear. If your daughter has any upper body physical disability then a wire is probably not the best option as it can sit awkwardly against her ribs. Opt for wire free bras. There are lots of wire free bras available up to a K cup in sports and regular designs. Sports bras are particularly useful as lots of special needs children and teens are very physically active.

A front closure bra may be more practical
3) Consider who is going to get your daughter in and out of her bra and how difficult that will be. If she goes to a swimming class as part of her schooling then will an assistant be available to help her with her bra? Perhaps a front closure bra would be more practical for a girl who has enough dexterity to put on a front closure but not a back closure.

4) If a conventional bra is not practical then look at quality crop tops that add a layer of compression and support to the breasts.

5) If it’s possible to get colours and patterns in bras that are suitable for your daughter then ask her which colours and designs she likes. Being given power over her choices empowers any girl and will make her relationship with her bras more positive.

6) ASK FOR HELP. Bras are still a mystery for millions of able bodied, mentally capable women so figuring out which bras are right for you daughter’s particular special needs can be overwhelming. I know that Claire works with parents of special needs daughters via Skype to help them learn about fit and style options within the comfort of their own homes. Familiar surroundings are very important for special needs children so your home is the best place to teach about bras and to try them on your daughter. 

Life may be very different for special needs girls in many ways but Mother Nature makes no allowance. They get boobs, periods and curves and they deserve to have these changes respected and acknowledged. It can be incredibly difficult for the parents of special needs daughters to recognize and acknowledge these changes but failing to do so can leave a special needs girl feeling exposed and confused and that’s not good for any human being."

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