Teaching Sexuality Skills to Individuals with Autism

For those of us who work with teens and adults on the spectrum, there will be times when we encounter situations we don’t know exactly how to handle.

I remember my first adult male client who had already acquired discrimination skills of when/where it was ‘okay’ to masturbate.  As a 23-year old female, I was relieved that I didn’t have to teach this discrimination skill, as I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start and how to keep it appropriate.

But this begs the question, who is teaching these skills and how?  Is it the job of BCBAs to be programming for healthy relationship and sexuality skills?  When we look to research on the topic, we find there is very little, but it is important work for a number of reasons.

Adults on the Spectrum Need Help With:

  • Avoiding being victims of abuse
  • Developing a basic knowledge about sexuality
  • Understanding what is legal and illegal sexual behavior (i.e., internet porn, stalking, etc.)
  • Developing healthy relationships
  • Developing healthy sexuality

Since our clients often don’t have the reading skills to acquire such knowledge and often don’t know whom to ask, problematic behaviors can occur, and this is generally when we realize some education needs to happen. Peter Gerhardt and Nancy Nowell are the two people, I personally, have seen speaking on these topics. I’d encourage everyone to look at the information they are putting out there and continue to research ways to help our teen and adult clients. Quality of life is an important part of programming and it’s time we start realizing that relationship and sexual skills are functional skills that need addressing.

Annie Collins-Castillo

Annie has been working with individuals affected by autism since 1999. Her passion is to improve the lives of these individuals and has driven her professional and academic endeavors utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis. Annie has worked directly with clients in Oklahoma, California, Hawaii, and Japan and supervised at a clinic in Hawaii leading a team of behavior therapists. She looks forward to impacting the largest number of individuals by working with Autism Training Solutions.

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