Discussing the “Birds and the Bees” with ASD Kids
It’s been a while since I contributed to my blog. As it is I have been busy writing other projects and haven’t had much time to give to this blog. Teaching kids with ASD about puberty, personal safety, relationships and sex are my area of comfort and expertise. So here are a few thoughts on teaching kids with autism about sex, and the steps to take before teaching this topic.
Here goes: suggestions from Mary Wrobel
Children develop at their own rates and some need the “sex talk” sooner, while others won’t be ready for it until they are older. Hormonal changes during puberty cause children to become more aware of their bodies, especially sexual changes to their bodies. These changes will eventually lead them to their own sexual awareness, and cause them to have sexual urges. This is true of all adolescents. Usually the onset of puberty is a good time to start laying the ground-work for talking about sex.
- Before beginning any discussions of sex, talk about the changes to your child’s body(everything associated with puberty) and explain why this is happening. You can simply say that his/her body is starting to grow to be a man or woman(like big brother/sister or mommy and daddy). Use a line drawn puberty progression chart, so that your child can see how changes to his/her body will take place over time starting with an age 7 picture and ending with a line drawn naked image of an adult man or woman.
- Establish rules about modesty and touching(touching themselves, touching others, and people touching them). Be sure that your child understands the rules about touching especially regarding their personal safety. The risk of sexual molestation and abuse is high for any student with a disability, including autism.
- If your child is masturbating, be sure to establish rules regarding that(i.e masturbating is personal and private and should only occur if they are alone in their bedroom or bathroom with the door shut). Realize that kids can act on their sexual urges without any knowledge of sex.
- When it’s time to have a sex talk with your child first find out what they might already know. Ask them, have you ever heard the word, sex? What do you think it means?
- Begin discussing sex with what they already know. What your child tells you will be a big indication of what facts they know about sex(if any) and what he/she is able to learn and understand. You may discover that your child has a lot of false information and ideas about sex.
- When it comes time to explain what sex is, keep your explanation simple. Much depends on the age and comprehension capabilities of your child. Don’t get too technical or include too much detail. There is plenty of time for that when they get older.
- Also, you shouldn’t explain everything they need to know about sex in one sitting. Instead, have many mini lessons and discussions. And only explain what your child’s attention span and comprehension capabilities can handle. Begin each mini lesson with a review of the last discussion/lesson you had.
- Allow your child to ask lots of questions, and be sure to answer them as simply, clearly and truthfully as you can. Be sure to address issues that your child is especially concerned about, even if his/her concerns may seem silly or inconsequential to you.
- If your child has participated in a sex education curriculum at school ask the school for a copy of that curriculum. You can use the school’s curriculum to guide your instruction and help you answer any questions your child might have. Realize that being exposed to sex education instruction at school does not mean that your child has learned much about sex. Most school based sex ed instruction for general education classes is condensed and presented in one or two sessions. In other words, your child probably got little out of any school-based general education presentation on sex. And sometimes it might just add to your child’s confusion about sex. Expect that you will be the one giving appropriate instruction on sex education to your child.
- Use visuals, as needed, with all your instruction. Line drawn pictures as well as photos can be helpful when explaining all puberty and sex education information.
- As your child gets older and needs to know more(definitely by high school), define sex for him/her and help your child understand a broader definition of what constitutes sex.
- Make sure your child understands the rules of sex, such as who can legally have sex, where you can have sex, and when sex is illegal.
- Your child also needs to understand the consequences of sex, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Finally, make sure they understand that sex is always a choice, a choice that responsible adults can decide for themselves. No one is allowed to force you or persuade you to have sex against your will. Sex that is not a choice is considered rape, and rape is against the law.
Hope this helps. If you need more, detailed information I would suggest getting my book: Taking Care of Myself 2
Ask me a question if you have any,