The subject of masturbation is one that people often feel uncomfortable talking about, yet it is a topic I receive many questions about. Some people believe that if a person is autistic, has intellectual or physical disabilities, they won’t have sexual urges. This simply isn’t true! Masturbation is a normal part of healthy sexuality. One thing to keep in mind…
Answer: For children that are concrete thinkers, teach rules and skills. Many individuals with ASD follow rules well and understand those types of boundaries. Make sure everyone who works with that child knows the established rules as well. You can teach the “why” behind the rule if the child is at a higher social-cognitive level. Keep in mind the cognitive level when teaching concepts. Does the person understand abstract concepts? Can they apply what they’ve learned in books to real life? Think about how the person learns best: using computers, through visuals, reading, video modelling etc.
I attended a presentation last week on practical approaches to teaching sexuality and want to share what I’ve learned. Teaching sexuality is often a daunting task whether you are a parent or professional. When it comes to ASDs, there is a two-fold problem: physical development is often typical while cognitive and social-emotional development are delayed and some sexual behaviours may be rooted in other causes such as sensory issues, rigid patterns of behavior, or the enjoyment of negative attention. You have to be a detective and investigate the reasons why sexual behavior is being exhibited; the cause may not be what it appears to be. For example, excessive touching of the genitals may be because pants are fitting too tightly and the touching may not be pleasure seeking related at all.
Analyze behavior and plan interventions to reduce inappropriate behavior. Ask the question, “What are they trying to get out of this?” You can teach and model something more appropriate, offering suggestions on what you can do instead.