ASD Children and Puberty

"What's the best way to approach the topic of "the birds and the bees" with my child on the autism spectrum? He will be 12 next week."

Puberty is a difficult time for all preteens and teens, but especially for those who are developmentally challenged, such as children with ASD or High-Functioning Autism. As a parent, you need to prepare yourself - and your child - for this event.

Talking about sexuality with these children needs to be straight forward. These kids do not pick up on social cues, therefore when talking about sexuality, it is important to use concrete terms.

Use real terms to describe what you are talking about. Expect that your child will be a sexual being, and understand that with a diagnosis of ASD often comes an inability to control impulse behaviors.

It is important to be proactive when preparing yourself and your child for puberty. Teach him/her that it is okay to be a sexual being, but this is also a private time. Teach them about good touch versus bad touch so that they are not vulnerable. Let them know that you are comfortable (and work at it if you are not) with this type of conversation so that they can be comfortable too.

It is often difficult to accept this reality in our special needs children, especially when they have a developmental disorder. It is difficult to accept the reality of the expression of sexual needs in our preteens and teens, especially when it seems like it was only yesterday that they were learning to tie their shoes.

They need to understand their right to express their sexuality through masturbation, but also need to understand the important of privacy. They also need to understand that sexuality, while a social behavior, is constrained by social rules. And they need skills to enable them to behave acceptably in open society.

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