Sexuality and Autism, Part 2

In Part 1 we explored the fact that people with autism are no different from any other person, they, too, enjoy sexual experiences. This article is going to take a closer look at what may be a part of an autistic persons’ introduction to puberty.

Author Geri Newton, in her article, Social/Sexual Awareness, states that, “Many of my clients have told me that having sex with someone is the only time they feel normal… when they are sexual with someone, they are just like everyone else – grown up.” She says that she has heard this same message from people with Identified IQ’s from 30 to 70, verbal and nonverbal. This is something we, as a society, should take time to explore further. Why? In my opinion, it is sad to realize that so many of our “brothers and sisters” can only feel normal when they are involved in a sexual encounter. And how much time do they spend in these sexual experiences? Most likely not too much time. This means that during the other hours of the week these people are probably feeling different, even out-of-place.

If you are the parent of a son, or a daughter, reaching puberty you most likely have some concern, maybe even some fear, as to how to deal with this new chapter in your autistic child’s life. During this time, you will need to first prepare your child for puberty and the body changes s/he faces. In girls, the parents should be prepared to help their child through this exciting time. This allows the parents the opportunity to review, on a regular basis, such areas as social expectations. This includes manners, positive sexual behavior, social accepted rules along with boundaries. These discussions should be conducted at home as well as in public. This is the perfect time, when in a restaurant, for example, to discuss manners and behavior.

Parents of an autistic girl, entering puberty, might discover it easier to use ability-appropriate level books, with pictures, to explain and show as you go. She needs to understand her various body parts and the function of each. She will most likely be delighted to hear that she will soon be developing breasts. However, she might not feel the same excitement about menstruation and the procedures to follow when the period starts. If your daughter carries a small purse you should make certain to pack some sanitary napkins and a pair of clean undies. Frequently remind her about the changes she will soon be facing.

Hopefully you have been working together as a team, her teacher, your daughter, and yourself. It is imperative that the team frequently review what happens once the period begins and to go through each step of using the sanitary napkin. She also needs to understand that her pad needs to be changed regularly and she may also need to clean herself. If you follow each of these steps, then you will prepare her for the “event.” You should also teach her how to properly dispose of her used pad. If a young girl is not prepared it can be terrifying for her to be sitting in a classroom and suddenly feel something running down her leg. Then, when she realizes it is blood this can cause her to have a very traumatic experience. While explaining the whole process, you should have a couple of sanitary napkins (the type she will be using so she is familiar with them) to show her the proper way to apply it. If you have a large doll, or some other object, show her the steps to applying the pad. Then, have her practice doing the same. You should review this procedure until she feels comfortable and can properly apply the pad.

In Part 3 we will discuss sexuality – your son and puberty.

Music Review – All He Has to Say – Autism Song, by Aika Hirahara

In late 2009, award winning singer/songwriter, Aika Hirahara released a heartfelt single called “All He Has To Say” (Autism Song). This song carries the listener through a mothers emotional journey and realization of her one wish, to hear her son speak. The piano ballad is beautifully arranged by Nicolas Farmakalidis with a piano, five string violin and cello.

“All He Has to Say” (Autism Song) was originally a poem by Lea Bishop that was later crafted to one of the most sensational songs dedicated to raising awareness about autism. Lea Bishop wrote the poem that later became “All He Has to Say” after an influential experience as a teacher working with children on the autism spectrum. “There is an inextricable bond between teacher and students with autism,” Lea Bishop explains. “We were talking to the kids about their teacher leaving. Some of them are non-verbal or have difficulty with communication. We weren’t sure whether all of them understood that the teacher wouldn’t be coming back. But then one child got up from the circle and walked over to give her a big hug. For me, that moment captured the connection that exists between the child with autism and the world around him or her,” Lea Bishop said.

Aika Hirahara performed her song in front of thousands of participants of the 2009 Boston Autism Speaks Walk at Suffolk Downs. “All He Has To Say” (Autism Song), has gone from an artistic expression to a full out campaign to spread awareness and raise money for those on the autism spectrum.

Below is an excerpt of one of the verses:

Where’s the link we need?

That piece to make it whole

I need my little boy back

I need what autism stole

A comment posted on Facebook by Melissa Hughey Estes states, “Love the song but have only listened to it once. I cried like a baby. Tried listening to it again the other day but I had to turn it off or cry again.”

Aika Hirahara is the daughter of legendary saxophone player Makoto Hirahara and sister of Japanese pop star Ayaka Hirahara. Aikas’ passion for music led her to pursue her education at Berklee College Of Music in Boston.

Approximately 1 in 91 children in the United States are born with the developmental disorder known as autism. A portion of the proceeds of this song go directly to benefit children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The song is available at all major MP3 retailers including iTunes, Amazon and Napster. You may also purchase the song by visiting AutismLyrics.com

Parent Educational Choices in Autism Assessment

Parents are often making choices about a young child’s educational future at the time of an autism assessment. Many educational angles are presented to parents during the autism assessment process. The following information includes five choices that parents make during the autism assessment.

Choice to Give Consent for Autism Testing

First of all, the parent has a choice as to whether or not to give permission or consent for a team to conduct an autism or early childhood educational assessment. Once the information is explained to parents, some parents make the choice to opt out or not have the child tested in the assessment process. However, many parents gladly accept this opportunity to learn more about their child’s skills and abilities as well as letting professionals give their opinions related to autism characteristics.

Choice to Agree or Disagree with Autism Results

Second, parents have a choice to agree or disagree with the results and recommendations of the autism eligibility meeting and team. Some parents are right on board with the results of the multidisciplinary team assessment, while other parents don’t see their children in the same way. It is not uncommon for parents to say that he or she ‘does not act the same way at home as he or she behaved in the assessment.’ At other times, the educational team may have different ideas than a doctor or early childhood intervention specialist so parents must make a choice in how they review the results of the assessment. There are times when parents disagree with the eligibility results, but still agree to have the child put in a special education program.

Choice to Complete Part of the Educational Assessment & Program

Third, some parents complete an autism or early childhood assessment and complete only the eligibility portion of the assessment. However, after the results are presented some of these parents will make the choice not to complete the Individual Educational Program from the local school district. Perhaps, the child is doing well in another program or with behavior therapy so the parent opts out of accepting a structured educational program in the school district.

Choice of Placement Options

Fourth, parents have choices to discuss placement options for the child with autism. Some children need more structured programs with intensive interventions, while other children need less support and can function in regular education programs with limited special education support and consultation.

Choice of Placement Changes

Finally, parents have a choice to work with special education staff to consider autism placement changes. If a special education program is not meeting the child’s needs then the type of program selected for the child may need to be modified. Parents have the option to ask the school to reconvene and have another meeting to discuss trying an optional educational program on a temporary or part time basis to see if the child with autism can function and adapt in the new educational situation. Most importantly, parents are making significant educational choices to help young children with autism. Parent input is extremely helpful and valuable in the child’s autism assessment and educational planning process.

A Book Review: Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Miles Seroussi’s development began normally, but abruptly came to a halt. Early diagnosis of autism sent his mother, Karyn Seroussi, on a journey of research and recovery. She found some researchers that believed autism to be a biologically based condition.

Among these researchers she learned from Bernard Rimland, PhD, Director of Autism Research Institute. He wrote the forward for this book saying that while it reads like a detective story, it accurately chronicles her family’s journey. Rimland’s book Infantile Autism published in 1964 laid to rest the pernicious theory that unloving “refrigerator” mothers caused autism. In spite of studies related to vaccinations in general and the MMR in particular, the medical establishment fails to confirm the connection in at least some situations. Further, studies regarding the benefit of Vitamin B6 for many children with autism are scoffed at or ignored by poorly informed physicians.

Karyn also learned that Paul Shattock and Karl Reichelt had identified neuropeptides. Her husband, Alan a researcher for Ortho, a division of Johnson and Johnson began a study to confirm that these neuropeptides were casomorphin and apha-gliadin with the idea of developing a routine neonatal or postnatal diagnostic test to identify autism much earlier.

In addition to these and other researchers, Karyn was doing her own work with other families, like theirs, that were doing home-based behavioral programs. Through the official research and her case studies, she found a number of factors that were true of many or some of these children in about ten families.

1. Gluten – by using an elimination diet they discovered that in most cases their children did better without gluten.

2. Dairy – they observed that many of the children had difficulty with dairy – especially casein, but some with lactose.

3. Other food allergies.

4. Yeast – many of these children had suffered from many ear / other infections and received many antibiotics – thus encouraging candida. Nystatan and / or probiotics deal with this.

5. “Leaky gut” – all of this results in a condition that prevents nutritional absorption.

6. Vaccinations – while Karyn did not begin with this belief she later realized that this was a factor for many.

7. Genetics – a predisposition to a weak immune system may cause the assaults listed above to overwhelm the system and lead to autistic behaviors.

Part of what brought Seroussi to the conclusion of the genetic factor was her own health. When she listed her symptoms, she realized that they matched the symptoms of food allergy and yeast overgrowth: extreme fatigue, disorientation and “brain fog”, diarrhea and bloating, joint pain and morning-stiffness, always feel cold, sleep disorder, intolerance to pain, difficulty exercising, sugar cravings, caffeine intolerance, back pain, frequent muscle spasms, clothes and shoes feel uncomfortable and restrictive.

In the second part of her book, the author presents the diet that has helped so many. Others have achieved results from different diets, however, Seroussi has produced a work that brings to light many of the factors that contribute to the condition we call autism and pervasive developmental disorder.

Confirming this journey of research and recovery led to the disqualification / discontinuing of special services before Miles went to school. As he entered kindergarten, his mother only told the teacher of his food allergies. Later, when she mentioned it to the teacher, he was amazed. Also, what every mother loves to hear, “I love you mommy,” has brought joy to this mother’s heart.