The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up by Terri Couwenhoven


The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up gives boys with intellectual disabilities the facts they need to navigate puberty.

Written at a third-grade reading level for boys aged 9-16 with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, fragile X, or other special needs, this book is the companion to The Girls’ Guide to Growing Up (2011), also by Terri Cowenhoven. The author, a certified sexuality educator, draws on more than 20 years experience conducting workshops on puberty and sexuality issues with boys, girls, families, and professionals.

The book’s succint text, realistic illustrations, and learning activities enable boys to read the book themselves or follow along with the aid of an adult. Its reassuring, matter-of-fact tone shows boys what changes–inside and out–to expect during puberty, and how to manage them:

  • -Growth spurts and bigger muscles
  • -Voice cracking and deepening
  • -Blemishes and oily skin
  • -Body and facial hair
  • -Moodiness
  • -Crushes, flirting, and sexual feelings
  • -Erections, wet dreams, and masturbation

The Boys’ Guide to Growing Up gives practical advice on commonplace concerns such as shaving, what to do about zits, and how to smell nice. More complex and essential topics are covered too, such as how to know when flirting is reciprocated (or not!), how to hide or discourage an erection in public, what information is okay to share with others versus what should remain private, and how to stay safe. It’s a must-have book for boys on the brink of puberty, teens who are in the midst of it, and the adults who care for them.

Also check out Terri Couwenhoven’s book for teaching children with Down syndrome about puberty and sexuality, Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality.