Sexuality and Autism (Part 1)

Many parents have a great concern when their autistic child reaches the ripe old age of sexual maturity. Ah, what to do? Should we put our daughter on birth control? Should we try to explain sexuality to our son who cannot sit still or offer his attention for more than a minute? It is a dilemma and every child faces this time in their life.

The first question many people ask is, “Do autistic people have sex?” That’s like asking if it will get dark outside tonight. Of course, the answer is, “yes.” It might not be the answer you want to hear but it is the truthful answer you must face with your child.

Another question you may have is, “Should I talk about sex with my child?” This answer has a lot to do with the ability level of your child. If your son/daughter has Asperger’s syndrome then the answer is a definite, “yes.” If your child does not have the ability to tie his/her shoes or feed him/herself then you must determine if your child will gain anything from this conversation.

Other parents ask if their young adult will become sexually active. This, like so many things regarding autism, is an interesting and difficult question. First, it is not at all uncommon for both boys and girls to masturbate. Sometimes, depending on where the person appears on the spectrum, masturbation can take happen in places that might be embarrassing. During my years of teaching the autistic population, we had this happen in the classroom occasionally. We discussed the situation with the school psychologist and her recommendation was to remove the child from the classroom and take him/her to the bathroom for privacy. This, I know, is not the solution everyone would agree with. For this reason, in my opinion, each teacher and each parent must come up with their own satisfactory solution. Aside from masturbation, sexual relations with another person is quite possible. Once again, it depends on the ability level of your child.

It is interesting to note that many more autistic adults are asexual compared to the remainder of the population. It is also believed that there is a higher percentage of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered autistic people when compared with the general population. Part of the reason for this is that there is not such a strong need for conformity. Another interesting fact is that many more gay autistics are celibate. This is by choice.

Some parents are wondering if their child will ever have a date, find a mate, and possibly marry. Naturally, this scenario is much less than in the remainder of the population. There are couples who marry. However, these are generally more high-functioning autistics. Some reasons why an autistic person might not become involved in a relationship is a simple fact that it can be very difficult for a socially impaired person to find a partner. Often, aside from the norm, it is not uncommon for the female to put the make on the male. However, the male, due to his inexperience, may not react appropriately simply because he does not know how.

Part 2 will delve a little deeper into sexuality and the autistic young adult.

Until next time, have a great day and remember to take good care of yourself!

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