First, you as a parent must fully understand what sexuality means. Sexuality is an integral part of the personality of everyone: man, woman, and child. It is a basic need and an aspect of being human that cannot be separated from other aspects of human life. Sexuality is not synonymous with sexual intercourse [and it] influences thoughts feelings, actions, and interactions and thereby our mental and physical health. Sex can simply mean gender, whether you’re male or female. Sex can also mean the physical act of sexual intercourse.
Did you know that between the years of 1907 and 1957 approximately 60,000 individuals with special needs were sterilized without their consent in order to “protect” them from sexual abuse as well as keeping those with disabilities from reproducing. Until the mid-1960s such actions remained relatively commonplace with displays of sexuality by learners with developmental disabilities punished as inappropriate or deviant.
Those with ASD do experience sexual interests, and that includes homosexuality. As is everyone, persons with ASD are sexual beings. However, individual interest in sex or in developing an intimate sexual relationship with another person varies widely across individuals at all ability levels. As such, there is a significant need for individualized, effective instruction for persons with ASD across the ability spectrum.
Children with ASD have shown to be more likely to participate in inappropriate sexual behaviors then their normal developing peers. This is because sexuality education is so difficult. These children may not understand that their behaviors are not suitable for people of their age. They are only acting on what they are feeling at that moment. Don’t wait until your ASD child engages in sexual activities to educate them.
How do you know when to start teaching your child? Start as early as possible. Begin when they are in pre-school. Teach them the differences between girls and boys, appropriate and inappropriate touching, public vs private, and basic body parts.
Those with ASD are easily distracted so try to remove all visual and auditory clutter and make the subject of discussion obvious and easy to focus on. Be frank and straightforward, there’s no need to beat around the bush, say what needs to be said in easily understood language.
How do you teach your ASD child about sex? Try some of these teaching materials.
· An anatomically correct doll
· Anatomically correct models of body parts
· Pictures (you can use Google images, medical and nursing textbooks)
Once they reach junior high/ high school potential areas of information include:
· Human growth, development and puberty
· Sexual abuse, personal safety, STDs
· Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting
· Sexual Orientation
· Public vs private behavior
· Good touch vs bad touch
· Proper names of body parts
· Personal boundaries and personal space
· Dating Skills
· How to say “NO”
One of the biggest topics to discuss with your child is masturbation. It’s normal. Everyone does it. But where and when is it appropriate? Designate where it is ok to masturbate, ex the child’s bedroom. Avoid teaching the use of the bathroom as the child may include the use of all bathrooms, even public ones. Teach the child that sometimes when they have the urge, it’s just not an appropriate time. But do provide the child with private time. If you catch your child touching him or herself, interrupt the behavior but do not punish them. Rather redirect their hands to another more appropriate activity, and be sure to reinforce good behavior.
Do not be afraid of teaching your ASD child about sex. It is a touchy subject. By teaching them all they need to know you are protecting from later danger, whether its sexual abuse or exposing themselves at school. Don’t become frustrated; if they don’t get it right away, just keep trying.