- A Brief Explanation of Discrete Trial Training
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome Who Present Behavioral Challenges
- Applied Behavior Analysis: A Focus on Outcomes
- A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
- Concerning Consequences: What Do I Do When...?
- Consequences, Behavior, and My Birds
- Don't Forget About Self Management
- Ever Had a Crisis Kind of Day?
- Movement Difference: A Closer Look at the Possibilities
- Movement Differences Among Some People with Autism: an Impetus to Re-Examine Behavioral Issues
- Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data
- Positive Behavior Supports Creating Meaningful Life Options for People with ASD
- Ten Steps Towards Supporting Appropriate Behavior
- The Challenge of Combining Competing Input in the Classroom
- "Your Attitude Just Might Be My Biggest Barrier"
- Applied Behavior Analysis: The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Tips for Choosing a Provider for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- What to Consider When Looking for a Qualified ABA Provider
- Assessment Day: Questions About the Communication Development of Your Young Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- â€śIf They Could Only Tell Me What They Are Thinking.â€ť The Need for Augmentative Communication for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Aiding Comprehension of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders During One-on-One Interactions
- Can Social Pragmatic Skills Be Tested?
- Comprehension of the Message: Important Considerations for Following Directions
- First Steps and the Journey to a Diagnosis of ASD for a Child under Three
- Functional Categories of Delayed Echolalia
- Functional Categories of Immediate Echolalia
- Initial Guidelines for Developing a Communication Intervention Plan for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Significant Limitations in Communication Ability
- Long and Short Term Strategies for Reducing Specific Repetitive Questions
- Successfully Using PECS with Children with ASD
- Meeting the Challenge of Social Pragmatics with Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
- Reading with Your School-Age Child: Building Vocabulary One Word at a Time
- Social Communication and Language Characteristics Associated with High Functioning, Verbal Children and Adults with ASD
- The 21st Century Speech Language Pathologist and Integrated Services in Classrooms
- The High Functioning Person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A "Tourist" in His Native Country
- The Role of the School Speech Language Pathologist and the Student with Autism
- Using a Visual Support to Enhance WH Question
- Visual Resources for Enhancing Communication for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities
- Visual Schedules and Choice Boards: Avoid Misinterpretation of their Primary Functions
- Visual Supports: Sources for Symbols for Receptive and Expressive Communication
- What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- Articles - Communication
- PICO - A Decision Making Tool For Selecting Apps
- Helping Your Child to Develop Communication Skills
- Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Communication and Social Intervention
- Important Predictors
- The Use of Technology in Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaborative Teaming
- Educational Programming
- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parentâ€™s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
- "Ham It Up and Get It Cookin!!" Thoughts From Dr. Greenspan
- Home-School Communication
- "I Can Do It Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build Independence in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- â€śI Wake Up for MY Dream!â€ť Personal Futures Planning Circles of Support, MAPS and PATH
- Life After High School...So Now What
- Literacy Resources
- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
- Service Learning: Something to Think About
- Supporting Staff Using Coaching Model
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome
- Teaching Students Who Are Low-Functioning: Who Are They and What Should We Teach?
- Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention
- There is No Place Called Inclusion
- The Road to Post-Secondary Education: Questions to Consider
- Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism
- Tips to Consider When Including a Student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education
- Transition: Preparing for a Lifetime
- Transition to Middle School
- Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another
- Understanding the Design and Power of a Personal Schedule
- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
- Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings to Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum
- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
- Growing Up Together
- How to Open A Combination Lock/Locker
- Supporting Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Postsecondary Transition
- Curriculum Materials and Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD
- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
- Advocates: Qualities to Look for and Choosing the Correct One for YOU
- Considering an Overnight Camp Program for your Child on the Autism Spectrum?
- Finding or Starting a Support Group
- Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Your Son/Daughter on the Autism Spectrum
- Selected Bibliography for Families of People within the Autism Spectrum
- Selected National Resources for Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Selected Resources for Understanding and Supporting Siblings
- Setting the Stage for Parent-Professional Collaboration
- Siblings Perspectives: Some Guidelines for Parents
- What About the Dads?
- When Your Child is Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Son/Daughter Might Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- For Parents: Preparing for the School Year
- Self Help/Medical
- Teaching a Young Man to Shave
- An Introduction to Possible Biomedical Causes and Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- The "M" Word
- Mealtime and Children on the Autism Spectrum: Beyond Picky, Fussy, and Fads
- Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Donâ€™t Let the Bed Bugs Bite:
- Taking Your Son/Daughter with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to the Dentist
- Teaching a Young Woman to Shave
- Anxiety and Panic Struggles
- Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Having THE Talk with Your Child with ASD
- General Information
- Assessment Processes for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Purpose and Procedures
- Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Diagnostic Criteria for Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder
- Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
- Getting Started: Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
- Increasing Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders Continues in Indiana
- Standardized Tests and Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Article 7, Title 511
- Whatâ€™s in a Name: Our Only Label Should Be Our Name: Avoiding the Stereotypes
- For Physicians: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Working with Schools
- Behavioral Issues and the Use of Social Stories
- How to â€śLose the Training Wheels:â€ť A New Way to Teach Bicycle Riding
- Living in Fear: Anxiety in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Local Community Resources to Enhance Activities
- Making (and Keeping) Friends: A Model for Social Skills Instruction
- Making Camps Accessible for All
- Play in the Lives of Young Children with Autism
- Play Time: An Examination Of Play Intervention Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Social Activity Groups: Another Approach for Helping to Bridge the Friendship Gap
- Teaching Social Skills through Theatre
- The Collective Outcomes of School-Based Social Skill Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum
- The Value of Movement Activities for Young Children
- We All Need Exercise
- Finding a Friend in School
- Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Incorporating Typical Peers Into the Social Learning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Articles by Temple Grandin
- An Inside View of Autism
- Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome
- Evaluating the Effects of Medication
- Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger's Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism
- Making the Transition from the World of School into the World of Work
- Social Problems: Understanding Emotions and Developing Talents
- Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
The "M" Word
Contribued By Melissa Dubie
The “M” word is masturbation. For everyone involved, it can be an uncomfortable topic when discussed at case conferences, parent meetings, or within one’s own family. The fact is that when each of us were infants, we spent time discovering our bodies, including our toes, feet, fingers, and yes even our vagina or penis. As boys and girls reach puberty, their sex hormones become more active. Many adolescents begin to have even more pleasurable and excited feelings about their own bodies and may be more attracted to and interested in other people’s bodies (Harris, 1994). Even though the feelings are hard to describe, they are normal feelings. They happen at different times and in different ways for both boys and girls. Actually, if individuals have not begun masturbating before adolescence, they likely will begin their hormonal and physical changes when puberty starts. Many males begin masturbating between ages 13 and 15, whereas the onset among females occurs more gradually (Strong, et al., 2005). While these statistics are for neuro-typical adolescents, they also apply to individuals on the autism spectrum. The sexual feelings and needs of individuals on the autism spectrum are no different than the rest of the population. People of all ages masturbate including children, teenagers, married and unmarried adults, and the elderly because it “feels good” (Gravelle, 1998).
Myths and Facts
How people view masturbation is an issue that needs to be addressed. Years ago, it was felt that masturbating would cause a person to go blind or insane, or cause pimples. This is not true. Others believed that if one ate graham crackers and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (Strong, et al., 2005), a person could be “cured” of masturbating. This is a myth as well. Masturbation is not physically harmful unless abusive means are used. Another myth is that masturbating will ruin a person for their first normal sexual relationship. Actually enjoying masturbation may help prepare a person for sex with another person. When one explores their own body there is an opportunity to learn what feels best. Later, you will be in a better position to let your sexual partner know the things that you like. Another fact is that masturbation never results in a pregnancy, or in getting or passing on infections.
Adolescents with Autism
With neuro-typical adolescents, parents usually don’t need to address the issue of masturbation because their son or daughter is able to understand the social cues associated with it from friends and parents. They understand that it is to be done in a private place, and to not discuss or do it in a public area. However, individuals on the autism spectrum may not be embarrassed about talking about their bodies. They may be unaware of the reactions of others or may continue to discuss the topic despite the negative attention of others. These individuals may have naturally started to fondle themselves. When they realize how good it feels, they may do it more. Their families may not be sure how to address the masturbation because their other children just “figured it out” for themselves. Other times, adults mistakenly believe that masturbation is a behavior a child will soon tire of and stop on his or her own (Wrobel, 2003). This is usually not the case. When a child is masturbating even occasionally in public, it needs to be addressed by his or her teachers and parents immediately.
How to React
Is masturbation morally wrong? Parents must talk among themselves about their beliefs, how they will react, and how they will teach their child about masturbation. Within the discussion, parents must consider their adolescents ability to understand this concept (e.g., cognitive abilities, ability to process information). One must also be careful about how your adolescent thinks you perceive him or her touching their genitals. For example, if you view it as “nasty or dirty” and touching oneself is strictly forbidden, then your adolescent may refuse to have a medical physician touch their penis or vagina during an exam because they interpret the rule literally. Or your child may conceal their masturbatory play from you, and start masturbating in inappropriate places (e.g., playground, school bus, locker room, hallway, community park). This could lead to more serious problems. Knowing your child, and demonstrating maturity and calm understanding is essential. For example, remain calm and do not scream when catching your son or daughter masturbating. Rather than simply telling your son or daughter to stop the behavior, teachers and parents should discuss why it is inappropriate to do so in public. It is important to teach one’s adolescent with autism strategies when, where, and how to be safe in regards to masturbation.
Questions and Answers
Parents, teachers, and individuals on the autism spectrum have called the Indiana Resource Center for Autism asking many questions related to masturbation. There isn’t one prescribed answer to all of the specific scenarios, but rather resources and ideas to explore. Here are a few of the scenarios:
My son is masturbating in the living room when he watches his favorite television show, how do I handle this situation?
- Teach rules and the boundaries about privacy with the use of social stories, pictures, and videos. Compare masturbating to another experience that he does by himself like taking a shower or using the restroom. Teach him that one should only touch oneself in a “private” area. It is imperative to teach private and public behaviors when children are young. Calgary Health Program has a useful lesson plan on their website (www.teachingsexuality.ca) to teach the terms public and private.
- Private should be described as one’s bedroom only. Hopefully, the child has private time alone in his/her room. It is highly recommended that an individual not be taught that the bathroom is an appropriate place, unless a door can be closed (no stalls). For students that can’t generalize, one may start to masturbate in a bathroom with stalls at school. This can open a child up to ridicule from other students in the school if one is discovered masturbating in the boys or girls bathroom. Parents and teachers must teach the child the appropriate times and places to masturbate.
Should a student be allowed to masturbate at school or on the bus?
- No. At school and on the bus are public places. This rule needs to be strict. A student on the autism spectrum could get into trouble for sexual harassment charges from his peers or be accused of indecent exposure. Both of these situations could lead to being arrested. Each school has a policy regarding sexual harassment. Contact your local school district for a copy of this policy.
A girl in my class is rubbing her genitals against the legs of her desk, what do I do about this?
- One has to analyze the situation to understand the antecedents of the behavior and the function of her masturbation (e.g., what reward is she getting out it). A functional behavior assessment needs to be completed in order to know how to change this behavior. The student could be rubbing their genitals against the desk because there is too much wait time in a transition, the work could be too easy, or she may find this behavior calming in a stimulating environment. There are many reasons for this behavior. Once the team discovers why she is masturbating, a replacement behavior can be taught to change the situation.
- Frequently it seems that the group working with the individual who is masturbating is uncomfortable with the situation. One must take a step back from the situation, so that it is not so personal. How one works with a student does not reflect on one’s own sexuality issues, but it does reflect on how the lessons of life are being taught. Let’s be sure to be positive and supportive of this tender subject.
How do I teach my son who has been identified with a moderate disability about having erections?
- Mary Wrobel’s book listed in the reference is an excellent resource that includes facts about masturbation, short stories, and visual strategies as well. Other books available on this reference list can also be used, but should be adapted to meet the child’s cognitive abilities.
- Create a visual system of explaining the process. Use photographs of a person or access pictures from Mayer Johnson (http://www.mayer-johnson.com/).
- Show factual slides or videos from materials written by James Stanfield. These are highlighted below in the reference list.
- Develop a routine and schedule at home when he or she can masturbate in their own room.
I’m an adult with autism, I am having troubles understanding how I can reach an orgasm, please help.
- There are several videos in our library at CeDIR (Center for Disability Information & Referral) that show how to masturbate in the privacy of one’s room alone. See the video list by Dave Hingsburger in the references below.
- Go to your local bookstore to quietly ask the person at the help desk about where the section on adult sexuality is located so that you can look at the numerous books to decide which one(s) will address your own questions.
In closing, the topic of masturbation must be discussed in private with individuals on the spectrum in order to help him or her develop an awareness of their own bodies, an understanding of when and where to do this, and to develop positive loving relationships with oneself or others in their adult lives.
Brekke, B. (1988). Sexuality education for persons with severe developmental disabilities [slide]. Santa Barbara, CA: James Stanfield & Co.
Cole, J. (1988). Asking about sex and growing up: A question and answer book for boys and girls. New York, NY: Beech Tree Books.
Gordon, S. & Gordon, J. (2000). Raising a child responsibly in a sexually permissive world. Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation
Gravelle, K., Castro, N., & Castro, C. (1998). What’s going on down there?: Answers to questions boys find hard to ask. United States of America: Walker Publishing Company.
Harris, R.H. (1994). It’s perfectly normal: Changing bodies, growing up, sex and sexual health. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Hingsburger, D. (1998). Hand made love: A guide for teaching male masturbation [video]. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Diverse City Press Inc.
Hingsburger, D. (1998). Under cover dick: A guide for teaching about condom use through video and understanding [video]. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Diverse City Press Inc.
Hingsburger, D. (2003). Finger tips: A guide for teaching about female masturbation [video]. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Diverse City Press Inc.
Kempton, W. (1993). Socialization and sexuality: A comprehensive training guide for professionals helping people with disabilities that hinder learning. Chapter 8, pp. 151-162. Aston, PA: Conner Printing, Inc.
Lawson, W. (2005). Sex, sexuality and the autism spectrum. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishing.
Madaras, L. & Madaras, A. (2000). The “what’s happening to my body?”: Book for boys. New York, NY: New Market Press.
Newport, J., & Newport, M. (2002). Autism/asperger’s & sexuality: Puberty and beyond. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Parent’s sex education link: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/.
Strong, B., DeVault, C., Sayad, B.W., and Yarber, W.L. (2005). Human sexuality: Diversity in contemporary America. Fifth edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Wrobel, M. (2003). Taking care of myself: A hygiene, puberty and personal curriculum for young People with autism. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons Inc.
Dubie, M. (2006). The “M” word. The Reporter, 11(1), 12-14.