International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Sexual Well-Being of High-Functioning Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sexual Well-Being of High-Functioning Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 16, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
11:30 AM
S. Nichols , Fay J. Lindner Center for Autism, NSLIJ Health System, Bethpage, NY
S. Byers , Psychology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada
Background: Healthy and safe sexuality for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is an important developmental goal, yet it has received little attention in the literature. What research has been done has focused primarily on negative markers and problematic sexual behavior. In order to be proactive and preventative, empirical studies of the sexual well-being of individuals with ASDs need to address positive sexuality development and barriers to healthy sexuality, not focus solely on problematic behavior.

Objectives: The aim of the current study is to examine a wide range of aspects of sexual functioning, with an emphasis on understanding positive sexual functioning (e.g., sexual desire, sexual esteem, sexual thoughts and fantasies). The relationship between severity of social impairment and sexual functioning was also  explored.  

Methods:   High-functioning male and female adults between the ages of 21-65 years with self-reported ASDs and average to above average cognitive abilities completed a comprehensive set of online questionnaires related to sexual well-being. Findings will be presented for adults who were currently in a romantic relationship or who had been in a romantic relationship of at least 3 months duration in the past. At the time of abstract completion, 40 adults had finished participation in the study. Recruitment for the study is ongoing throughout 2008.

Results: Participants’ scores on measures of interest will be compared to normative samples. Canonical correlation analysis will be used to determine the relationship between demographic characteristics (e.g., age, sex, relationship status, severity of ASD symptomatology) and measures of sexual functioning.

Conclusions: We will report on the relationships between age, sex, and symptom severity profiles and sexual well-being in order to better understand the sexuality and relationships of high-functioning adults living in the community. Limitations and recommendations for future research directions in adult sexuality will be discussed.