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A Psychosexual Training Program for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); The First Effects of the Tackling Teenage Training

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 14:15
Chamber Hall (Kursaal Centre)
K. Visser1, L. P. Dekker2, E. van der Vegt3, F. Boudesteijn4, F. C. Verhulst5, A. Maras1 and K. Greaves-Lord2, (1)Yulius Academy, Yulius, Rotterdam, Netherlands, (2)Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry/psychology, Erasmus MC - Sophia's Childrens Hospital, Rotterdam, Netherlands, (3)Yulius, Rotterdam, Netherlands, (4)Yulius Autism, Yulius, Dordrecht, Netherlands, (5)Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry/psychology, Erasmus MC - Sophia Children's Hospital, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Background:  Adolescents with ASD seem to have similar psychosexual needs to typically developing adolescents, but lack the necessary knowledge and social skills to fulfill these needs (Hénault, 2005; Mehzabin & Stokes, 2011). Therefore, an individual training program was developed in The Netherlands targeting the psychosexual development of adolescents with ASD; the Tackling Teenage (TT) Training. Aims of the training are to increase knowledge, skills, and self-esteem regarding puberty and sexuality and to decrease vulnerability, deviant behaviour and worries of adolescents with ASD. Parents are involved in the training through homework assignments and email contact.

Objectives:  To investigate the effect of the Tackling Teenage Training on knowledge, skills, self-esteem, vulnerability, deviant behaviour of adolescents with ASD and worries of parents and adolescents with ASD.

Methods:  The TT Training consists of 18 weekly individual sessions with the adolescent and a trained professional. Knowledge of puberty and sexuality (measured with a self-report knowledge test) and psychosexual development, measured with the newly developed Teen Transition Inventory (TTI; self-report and parent-report version) were administered before (T1) and after the training (T2). We conducted a pilot study and are now conducting a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT), with a control condition and an intervention condition (N = 150). At this point we have data of a Dutch sample of n = 74 at T1 with a mean age of 14.8 years (SD 1.92), mean TIQ 102.9 (SD 12.93), mean SRS total score 102.9 (SD 24.03). 74% of this sample is male. We have T2 data at this point of n = 21.

Results:  Knowledge regarding puberty and sexuality increased significantly with a mean of 26 correct answers at T1 to a mean of 34 correct answers (p < 0.001) at T2. Parents reported a growth in skills in their children, for instance in recognizing boundaries (T1: 0%, T2: 30%, p < 0.05). More adolescents reported that they are satisfied with their own bodies (T1: 24%, T2: 71%, p < 0.05) and adolescents reported less problems making friends (adolescents T1: 25%, T2: 9%, p < 0.05). Generally the worries of parents and adolescents about the future decreased, for instance parents reported to worry less about the vulnerability of their child after the TT training (T1: 67%, T2: 65%, p < 0.05). However, parents reported more worries about the future autonomy of the adolescent (T1: 76%, T2: 86%, p < 0.05).

Conclusions:  The first results show that the TT Training generates a positive outcome regarding knowledge about puberty and sexuality, social skills and worries of parents and adolescents. However, some worries about the future increased. The increase in worries can possibly be explained through better insight in the difficulties of their child. We expect to be able to present the full results of n = 50 at the time of the presentation.

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