Having "THE" Talk with Your Child with ASD
Catherine Davies, M.Ed, M.Sc,CPsychol, LMHC and Melissa Dubie, M.S.
Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) progress similarly to their typically-developing peers in terms of sexual health (Henault, 2006). The physical changes that occur during puberty generally happen between age 12-17 for boys and 7-14 for girls (Yarber, Sayad & Strong, 2012). This physical maturation age doesn’t change if your son or daughter has ASD or if their intellectual or social skills are lagging behind their chronological age. Although your son or daughter may not be ready for these changes emotionally, they need to be prepared for them, as they are going to happen whether they (or you!) are ready or not. Additionally, there is a wealth of evidence that individuals with ASD need to learn about both the facts as they pertain to sex and the details of social relationships in order to enable them to develop healthy relationships as adults and reduce the risk of them becoming victimized by others (Davies & Dubie, 2012). Therefore, it is important to think about how these issues are going to be addressed with your son or daughter before they begin puberty and when they develop into adults. It is also important to note that if this isn’t addressed, your child will find another source for this information. Typically, this might be the media or your child’s peers, and the concern is that both of these resources are likely to provide inadequate and incorrect information.
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Given the breath and complexity of the issues listed in this article, it is impossible to provide all the information that you will need to teach your child. We have, therefore, provided a list of resources below that can support and guide you. Even though the task still seems challenging, the pay-off for your son or daughter will be enormous, not only in terms of their safety in relationships, but their general well-being as they become informed adults.
Resources & References
• Atwood, S. (2008). Making sense of sex: A forthright guide to puberty, sex, and relationships for people with asperger’s syndrome. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
• Baker, J. (2013). No more victims: Protecting those with autism from cyber bullying, internet predators, and scams. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
• Berman, L. (n.d). Handbook: How to talk to kids about sex. [Free download]. Retrieved August 12th, 2014 from http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Download-Dr-Laura-Bermans-Talking-to-Kids-About-Sex-Handbook
• Berman, L. (2009). Talking to your kids about sex: Turning “the talk” into a conversation for life. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley Publishing.
• Berman, L. (Presenter/author) (2009). How to have the sex talk with your child [Video]. Retrieved August 12th, 2014 from http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Dr-Laura-Berman-Helps-a-Mom-Explain-Sex-to-Her-Daughter-Video
• Davies, C. & Dubie, M. (2012). Intimate relationships and sexual health: A curriculum for teaching adolescents/adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and other social challenges. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger’s Publishing Company.
• Dubie, M. (2005). Puberty. The Reporter, 10(3), 3-4, 20. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/index.php?pageId=475
• fpa.org.uk/help-and-advice/advice-for-parents-carers – Family Planning Association (FPA) is one of 150 member associations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Has information, advice, and support on sexual health, sex, and relationships.
• Gitchel, S. & Foster, L. (1984). Let’s talk about . . . s-e-x: A read and discuss guide for people 9 to 12 and their parents. Fresno, CA: Planned Parenthood of Fresno, Education Department.
• goaskalice.com –Columbia University site where you can type in a health related question and receive an accurate answer.
• Henault, I. (2006). Asperger’s syndrome and sexuality: From adolescence through adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publisher.
• kidshealth.org – website with doctor approved science facts, quizzes, and informational videos about the body and health. Has pages for younger children, teens and parents.
• sexetc.org - website published by answer.rutgers.edu a national organization that provides comprehensive sexuality education for young people and the adults who teach them. Has a factual forum, blog, glossary, and up-to-date information answering questions about sex written by both teen and adult staff writers. Includes humorous videos- you may want to check that your teen understands this humor before you show them these videos.
• sexualityandu.ca – information and education on sexual health by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.
• siecus.org – SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) provides parents, educators and young people information about sexuality issues.
• teenwire.com – sponsored by Planned Parenthood specifically for teens. Videos such as “Am I Normal?” about changing bodies and genitals for males and females. Information on puberty, sex, masturbation, pregnancy, and tools for teens.
• Yarber, W., Sayad, B.W., & Strong, B. (2012). Human sexuality: Diversity in contemporary America (8th edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Davies, C. and Dubie, M. (2015). Having “THE” talk with your child with ASD. The Reporter, 19(10). Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/having-the-talk-with-your-child-with-asd