Parental Perspectives of Communication about Sexuality in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

21 Jun

This is a small study, a very small study. Parental Perspectives of Communication about Sexuality in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Interviews were held with 18 parents of autistic children. At the same time, I think papers like this keep an important dialogue moving forward. It’s tough for parents*at least this parent) to consider the future sexuality of their children. Well, there is of course the fears, in this case the fears of victimization.

Here is the abstract


To explore the content of communication about sexuality between parents and children with autism spectrum disorders, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 parents of children ages 6-13. Content analysis and ethnographic summary were used to interpret the data. Findings suggest that parent’s perceptions of a child’s behaviors and comprehension are associated with the likelihood that communication occurs. However, parents recognize the risks their children experience, with the greatest fears being sexual victimization and misperceptions related to the intent of their child’s behaviors. This study provides information on the nature of communication about sexuality in families of children with autism spectrum disorders and can help tailor interventions aimed at assisting parents to communicate sexuality information effectively.

It strikes me as this is one of those times when bringing in the information autistic adults might offer would benefit those of us parents.

12 Responses to “Parental Perspectives of Communication about Sexuality in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

  1. Autism and Oughtisms June 21, 2011 at 07:06 #

    I worry about this, and my son’s only five!

    I too would be keen to hear the insights of autistic adults who have been through these experiences already.

  2. Nightstorm June 21, 2011 at 17:24 #

    I’ve actually had parents talk to me about puberty and about my sexual awakening. Also funny, because I was talking about that with my SO XD

    I personally wouldn’t mind answering questions if parents have any (BTW I am trans-male and sexually queer)

    • Sullivan June 21, 2011 at 21:58 #


      I don’t recall if you shared those details here before. I need to pop over to your blog and see what you’ve had to say.

  3. vmgillen June 21, 2011 at 18:52 #

    My son is non-verbal, and in no way to be confused with the population fka Asbergers… For any any “non-NT Spectrum” child the BIGGEST danger lies in the universal focus on compliance – with little or no opportunity for exercising choice… followed by the inevitable confusion that hits when the hugs and physical contact that were encouraged when they were cute little kids are interpreted as ‘inappropriate touching’ at best, ‘assaultive’ at worst as the child grows; add an erection and you could be looking at police involvement.

    It is unrealistic, and just plain wrong, to deny sexuality. It is likewise unrealistic to ignore it until the age of 6, or 18, or 21. There’s a lot more involved than the mechanics of the sexual act, more than avoiding abuse (then again, consider how many NT-spectrum relationships are abusive!) and more than avoid pregnancy/disease. BTW, I’m a parent who has been on this for more than 20 years – at least now I don’t turn beet-red! I really do wonder what Ari Ne’eman would say about this, as self-id’d mouth of autism…

  4. Nightstorm June 21, 2011 at 20:24 #

    I really do wonder what Ari Ne’eman would say about this, as self-id’d mouth of autism…

    What the hell is that implying?

  5. vmgillen June 21, 2011 at 20:42 #

    I really DO wonder – and, if Ne’eman were to express on this, as the representative “voice” on a politically powerful committee, his position would ultimately be expressed in “mission statements” if not in practice. I’m also wondering: what did you think it implied, since you’re using “hell”? Perhaps I am not expressing myself properly.

  6. Nightstorm June 21, 2011 at 20:55 #

    You make no sense honestly…what does Ari have to do with sexuality and autism. Why are you (if i am not mistaken) mocking him (I am getting the “Ari is not really autistic like MY child” vibe)

    You need to slow down and organize your thoughts more clearly because I honestly do not understand what you are trying to come across except for the nagging feeling of “Goldilocks Rhetoric”.

  7. vmgillen June 21, 2011 at 21:36 #

    Goldilocks? I’ve seen this used before, and am not sure what’s meant by it – in this specific instance “someone’s sleeping in my bed” has some interesting connotations.

    Ne’eman has an opportunity to weigh in on a serious and sytematic failure-

    Sexuality is something that applies to everyone – everyone, including Mr. Ne’eman, including my son. Across Dx’s attention focuses on little kids, with great emphasis on compliance (NT-spectrum kids do not have ABA or psycho-tropic meds) Little or no opportunities are given for making choices – or learning to say no, or how to successfully self-advocate. This stunts individual growth, and ultimately impacts the child’s evolving sexuality. When children become adults not only do they lack the experiential background needed to keep them safe and allow them to pursue their sexuality, but society-at-large views them as unsavory and out of control, with sexuality all too often treated as non-compliant or deviant behaviour.

    This is important, and I am sorry if you cannot understand. . .

    • Sullivan June 21, 2011 at 21:56 #


      Ari Ne’eman is not associated with this blog. Given how rarely sexuality is brought up in the forums I see, I don’t fault Mr. Ne’eman if he has no great track record on the subject.

      Yes, this is an important subject. Too important to be used as a hammer to bash someone not participating in the discussion.

  8. Nightstorm June 21, 2011 at 23:26 #


    Ok I think I understand what she is saying. You would think with the various adult autists on this blog and some with comprehension issues she would be more sensitive. :/

    Ari Ne’eman is not associated with this blog. Given how rarely sexuality is brought up in the forums I see, I don’t fault Mr. Ne’eman if he has no great track record on the subject.

    Considering he is a public figure, I don’t blame him from not talking about this openly. It’s a sticky topic however their are other adult autists out their that have weighted in. Some are members of ASAN

    Speaking of which Matt,

    Feel free to read those entries I have on sex and DD 🙂

  9. Ashmire June 22, 2011 at 03:09 #

    I think you’ll find a wide variety of answers, not a one-size-fits-all, but there does seem to be a high correlation with differences in sexuality in autism—or maybe we just aren’t very good at lying about it, as with other things.

    I do know that the first attempt of anyone( a school psychiatrist who as far as I’m concerned should have seen her own psychiatrist before causing me such trouble) to diagnose me with anything( shortly after I entered kindergarten) was to conclude that I was either transsexual or “being forced to live as male because of parental disappointment”—neither of which happened to be true( unlike Nightstorm I have no interest in changing my physical sex), but it IS true that I don’t primarily identify according to gender and am inclined to forget about it or fail to understand its importance to others. I was very late to develop an interest in sexual matters and kept my virginity longer than anyone I know despite a lot of interest from boys which I was mostly unable to understand at the time( perhaps I was somewhat lucky as well), but am not asexual, and most people are apparently surprised to learn that I am actually heterosexual( which is a problem in finding a mate). My particular sensory quirks lead my tastes into areas sometimes considered “kinky”( e.g., I find the feel of latex much more pleasurable than skin, among other things) but I feel little resonance with the psychological aspects described by most NTs with similar tastes and find their detailed, emotion-laden descriptions quite silly in general.

    I do think I was helped to avoid some pitfalls by having parents who did not burden me with much religious morality and gave frank explanations of the physical facts and risks, alongside a classical art education which eliminated most mystery from the human body, but that would probably be true of NT kids also.


  1. Autism Blog – Parental Perspectives of Communication about … | My Autism Site | All About Autism - June 21, 2011

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