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.