ASD and Sexuality Education

Friday, May 13, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
R. L. Loftin, Autism Assessment, Research & Treatment Services Center, Chicago, IL

There is an urgent need to teach people with ASD about sexuality. Individuals with ASD are at increased risk of sexual victimization (Selever, Roth & Gillis, 2013). People with ASD may also be at increased risk of problematic sexual behaviors that can include undesired touching, public masturbation and other illegal activity (Hellemans et al., 2007). Legal cases involving people with ASD often have a sexual component. In this clinician’s practice alone, legal allegations have included viewing pornography in public locations, possession of child pornography, pedophilia, and inappropriate touching/ sexual advances toward other adults. Inappropriate sexual behaviors can limit employment and inclusion opportunities (Sullivan & Caterino, 2008), as well as opportunities for relationships. Many illegal or otherwise inappropriate sexual situations experienced by people with ASD could have been prevented with adequate sex education. One of the biggest challenges in developing appropriate sexuality education for people with ASD has been bridging the gap between people who know about sexuality education and people who know about ASD (Mesibov, 2012). The proposed presentation assessed use of a manual for sexuality education that was developed by ASD specialists and a consultant from Planned Parenthood.  


This presentation will outline the research investigation of a sexuality education curriculum and practical implications for practice.  


Ten young men with ASD completed a 14-week sexuality education courses in a community-based center. A published curriculum in sexuality education for people with ASD served as the manual (Davies & Dubie, 2012). Planned Parenthood’s standards, adapted from the federal standards for sexuality education, were used as a framework for reorganizing the Davies & Dubie manual. Supplementary lessons were created for additional areas of need that were not fully addressed.  


All participants participated in pre and post-testing that included measures of social validity, knowledge questionnaires and vignettes of social situations. Additionally, feedback from participants, course leaders and parents was collected to assess acceptability of the intervention.  



The final post-tests are occurring in October, and data will be analyzed in November and December. Participants are expected to demonstrate learning. Attendance in groups was good, and the acceptability of the intervention is expected to be high among attendees. Because it can be very difficult to motivate people with ASD to participate in activities outside of the home, the extent to which the young people are willing to learn about these topics will be very informative. The feasibility aspect will provide important information about whether the proposed intervention is relevant and sustainable in the community. If it is found to be feasible, it should be exportable.  


There is a tremendous need for interventions for young adults with ASD and, in particular, for appropriate, comprehensive sexuality instruction. Sexuality education in adolescence is particularly important because they are forming a sense of gender, identity and values (Goldman, 2011). Further, sexuality education can help future adults with ASD to be safer, more independent, and to have more opportunities for integration (Gerhardt & Lainer, 2010).