HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Aspergers Teens and Porn Addiction

Question

I’m an MFT in California and I have a new client who is step mom to a 16yr old boy who has Aspergers. Lots of stressors: military family, dad has been away much of past several years, and is currently deployed, step mom is authoritarian in style, having been raised in an army family. She appears willing to consider change, as she is so stressed. She says he’s ‘a good boy’ and she loves him, but the behaviors have to change.

The boy has been obsessed with porn for a couple of years now and apparently has stolen mom/dads credit cards and downloaded over $5,000.00 of online porn. They keep removing access from him, he keeps accessing more. He also takes mom and 18 yr. old sister’s underpants, and cuts the crotches out. She doesn’t think he’s wearing it – probably masturbating with them, though she hasn’t found them soiled – just cut out. They have resorted to locking their bedroom doors, and he has broken in more than once – to access mom’s credit card, and sister’s computer and panties.

Strong sexual interest at 16 is natural, some obsessive quality about it may be common with the Aspergers feature, and he doesn’t have the social skills to get a girlfriend at this time. The family understands the boy has sexual urges, and has considered making a Playboy subscription available for him. They can’t tolerate the stealing, charges to credit cards, breaking in to their rooms, and obsessive porn fixation.

I’m not an expert here – open to suggestion if you’re willing to offer.


Answer

Pornography can create a powerful biochemical “rush.” When an adolescent is subjected to an arousing image, the adrenal gland secretes epinephrine into the bloodstream, where it proceeds to the brain and locks the image in. Once this has occurred, the simple thought of the image can trigger a feeling of arousal. Many porn-addicted adults can still vividly recall the first pornographic image to which they were exposed as a kid or teen. Other body chemicals (e.g., serotonin, adrenaline, endorphins, dopamine, etc.) also are at play creating a euphoric state.

Adolescents who experience this biochemical thrill will, not surprisingly, want to experience it again. Thus, it is helpful for therapists to see pornography not as just a social issue – but as a drug, because the addictive mechanism is clearly part of the danger when adolescents habitually view pornography.

While treatment plans vary strongly by circumstance, there are some important considerations to remember for therapists who are working with Aspergers (high functioning autism) adolescents on this sensitive issue:

1. One of the fundamental mistakes therapists make when dealing with adolescents and pornography is to willingly or inadvertently reveal, or even attempt to impose, their own religious or moral values. Therapists must never make assumptions about values of their clients (or their families), nor try to impose personal religious or moral viewpoints, even if they feel it is in the best interest of the client. Also, it is very important to closely monitor any self-disclosure about your own sexual experiences.

2. It is helpful to gain an understanding of the client’s sexual parameters, and to help them define their boundaries if they are unsure where to draw them. A helpful tool for this is the “circle plan” in which three concentric circles are drawn representing healthy sexual behaviors (outer circle), boundary or uncertain behaviors (middle circle), and bottom-line or off-limits behavior (center circle) and helping the Aspergers adolescent define where he stands. Aiding the clients in the creation of these boundaries in a safe environment will help equip them to not have to make snap decisions about where to draw the line in sexually charged, real-life situations.

3. With pornography, therapists sometimes fail to understand the power of the compulsion Aspergers adolescents are facing, and it is not uncommon for school, religious, or private-sector therapists to advocate a simple treatment plan that is based upon willpower or moral character. Since pornography can be an addiction, these “just say no” types of approaches are likely to only create more frustration and self-defeating ideation in Aspergers adolescents who do not have the willpower to stop. For such teens that can no longer control their actions, the intervention and treatment modality must recognize the problem as a full addiction, and treat it with the same consideration given to alcohol or drugs.

4. Many Aspergers adolescents who are developing compulsive pornography problems do so in agonized isolation, often believing that they are perverts and alone in their actions. It can be helpful for the professional to educate them on the prevalence of the issue while still clearly communicating the dangers so they don’t trade their isolation for an “oh well, since everyone is doing it…” idea.

5. For many Aspergers adolescents who are struggling with pornography, shame is a major factor. When you first meet the client, it is not unusual for him to avoid eye contact, and be hesitant to answer questions. The practitioner should attempt to minimize shame by being supportive and nonjudgmental about the struggle.



Best Comment:

I have a 16 year old son who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was about 10 years old. He has been accessing pornography in various forms for the last two years. I have restricted his access to media (he has not been allowed unsupervised internet or television activity in two years) but he consistently sneaks internet porn by taking laptops or smart phones out of family member's rooms at night when we are asleep. A year ago he ordered $180 in pay-per-view movies at which point we set password protections on the televisions. We have password protected our smart phones and computers though he finds ways to circumvent these protections (i.e. he will catch the computer before it goes into sleep mode and close the lid so that he is able to access it at night).

I am concerned that he will act on the sexual content he is obsessed with. Most recently I found he has accessed a website which had content that included teen boys having sex with family members (step-mother or mother). I am especially concerned because he seems to be fixated on his sister (14 years old). He frequently will touch her hair or in appropriately get close to her, blowing on her face or the back of her neck. I am also responsible for my 10 year old nephew who is in the foster-care system and lives with us. I am concerned that he might act out sexually on him, although he has not shown any sexual fixation on him (though he has shown hostility towards him) and the pornography he has accessed to date has been heterosexual in content.

He is under the care of a psychiatrist who has prescribed Vyvanse70 mg, Zoloft 125mg, and Intunive 4mg, as well as Seraquel 20 mg at bedtime and a booster of Adderall 10 mg in the afternoon.

My son went to pre-k in public school was home educated from kindergarten (which he repeated twice) through the first half of 3rd grade and then home educated from 5th grade (which he repeated) until this school year (8th grade). I had to make the change because he had become so oppositional with his tutor (his 26 year old sister who has a teaching degree) that she refused to teach him any longer. He would love to return to home education, but he is so oppositional this is not an option. He does not sleep well (which is why we have introduced the serequel in the last 6 weeks) and often will eat large amounts of sweets while the family sleeps (typically all the cookies or sweet cereal in a box).

I am so frustrated with the compulsive behavior, lying and porn addiction that I have often threatened to send him to live with his father. His dad is emotionally volatile (we are divorced due to his emotional abuse) and I don't really think it is in my son’s best interest to live with his father, but I don't know what to do with him. He has hit me two times in the last 8 weeks and both times I called the police. The first time the police warned him that if they were called again they would take him into custody. The second time the police took him away from our home in handcuffs and placed him in their police car while they questioned the family. They called his father to pick him up from the station rather than place him in Juvenal Detention overnight. His father picked him up and threatened to, "F---ing beat the H--- out of" him if that ever happened again.

In have initiated the help of a counselor who deals with sexual offenders as his counselor (he has only seen him twice), I have gotten him a cat so that he has a healthy outlet for his need for physical touch, and I have initiated the help of an emotionally healthy man (a longtime family friend and church member) to mentor him and give him a part-time job in landscaping (his 20 year old brother also works for this man).

I don't know what else to do for my son. I am hoping you can advise me or direct me to a treatment plan or inpatient facility that can help my son before my son violates someone. I don't want someone else's life to be damaged by my son and I don't want him to further damage his own life either.

Please post your comment below...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My son is 20 with a goal of being a video game programmer and spends most of his time on the computer addicted to a role playing game, Magic The Gathering. He has two older sisters and recently confided in his youngest sister and her boyfriend that he would like to put off having a job as long as possible. He takes one credit each semester in college computer programming so I noticed that you had a program on motivation. My daughter cleaned up my computer last night so I hope to download your book.

He takes little interest in grooming himself, and has to be told to wash his hair (he likes to take a bath, but not wash his hair). I have to tell him to put on clean clothes. Last week I threatened to cancel the internet to get some compliance, so his emotional level is about 12 years old. He still has to be told to put out the garbage.

In the last year or two he has also developed a new compulsion of checking the door and slamming it over and over day and night. He sleeps in the basement and goes up and down the stairs to check and slam and re-slam the door. Very annoying.

He is not on medication, not that he would take it if it was prescribed for him. I used to insist he get exercise, but now that he is older, it is very difficult. He has not gone skating or swimming in about 5 years and has not biked for over a month.

Anonymous said...

My husband's daughter was obessed with sex at age 11. We couldn't get her to stop writing about it over and over and over again. We blocked all tv programs over pg and put parental controls on the computer. We also locked up any movies that are rated R.

Anonymous said...

Get this child and his family into therapy. He would also benefit from hospitalization in a facility that understands addiction & autism.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness! I pray this NEVER EVER happens to me... With either of my sons!

Anonymous said...

This is a troubling issue. Obsessions like this can be misconstrued very easy. Therepy may help, but it must be watched closely.

johnathan lenrer said...

as an aspie i will agree with this cause i was a little sexually curious at the age of 12 (i'm 15 now) and i was and still am addicted to porn (trying to quit though) it's rough to give up

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