Teenagers with autism develop sexually and have romantic feelings just as other children their age do. To help teenagers with autism understand their feelings and behave appropriately give clear explanations of sex, sexuality and relationships.

Dewinter, J., Vermeiren, R., Vanwesenbeeck, I., Van Nieuwenhuizen, C.(2016) Adolescent boys with autism spectrum disorder growing up: follow-up of self-reported sexual experience, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25, 9, 969.

Sexuality is inherent to all of us irrespective of cognitive, physical or learning abilities. Effective teaching of issues around sexuality involves close collaboration between schools and parents to ensure messages are clear and consistent. Understanding of appropriate sexual behaviours, correct anatomical language and exposure to social contacts and friendships is essential.

We must ensure that each teenager is prepared for the changes that will occur particularly if he or she wishes to have romantic and intimate relationships. We need to aware the teenager recognises the importance of

  • Self-respect and self-confidence
  • Respecting his or her partner and potential partners
  • Connecting with his or her partner, or rapport, which is very important when meeting potential partners
  • Communicating with his or her partner, which involves negotiation
  • Developing trust with his or her partner

Kate Reynolds (2013) recommends

“Individualised programmes of sex education are necessary as well as some small group work in the class. The rules which apply to all teaching and autism are as appropriate for sexuality, these being:

  1. Repetition, such as story books on related subjects 
  2. Visual teaching, such as picture cards or puppets
  3. Use of physical 3D models, which pupils can handle and observe. This may be useful to explain ejaculation, how to insert tampons or insertion of a penis during sexual intercourse, for example.
  4. Role play in class settings
  5. Watching and reviewing appropriate DVDs – this may be particularly engaged in at home on a one-to-one basis with a parent.”

Reynolds, K.E. (2013) Sexuality and Severe Autism: A Practical Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Health Educators, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Read previous: ← Relationships