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It’s Only Natural: Discussing Sexuality and Autism

Posted on: February 7th, 2012 by saaac-master No Comments

When one is not deemed as a typical developing child, the larger society realizes these individuals have ‘special needs.’ However, they also, inadvertently, forget that such special needs individuals may also have some of the same needs as typical developing individuals. Sexuality, the recognition of sexual matters, and the need for sexual expression are prominent biological needs for adolescents with Autism as much as it is for any adolescent while maturing into adulthood. Respecting each individual’s dignity and needs, teaching them healthy ways of sexual expression, while being mindful of their safety is the role of caretakers. Adolescents with Autism are a vulnerable population and their need for sexual education is both important and beneficial. Adolescents with Autism might differ in their ways of expressing sexuality relative to a typically developing person.  Their means of communicating that growth to those around them may be difficult and may sometimes be perceived by others as inappropriate or indecent. South Asian families tend to have resistance when it comes to conversations about sexuality, puberty changes and adolescent growth; however, that is not to say that South Asian families are not aware of its existence and problems.

As part of the continuing SAFE (South Asian Family Empowerment) Series, in partnership with United Way, SAAAC invited an expert form the Geneva Centre for Autism to further articulate the complexities of addressing sexuality with adolescents impacted by Autism. The seminar illustrated strategies on how to help individuals understand their sexual development and encourage a healthy sexuality. It was a learning experience for the families, siblings and volunteers who were enthusiastic and engaged during the training. The speaker was commendable as she was able to speak about such a contentious topic and create a safe environment for the families to voice of their thoughts and concerns relating to their specific child.

It was an elucidating afternoon that saw the complexities involved with discussing sexuality and Autism within a South Asian milieu. Creating such dialogues was one of the driving forces of the SAFE series, and SAAAC hopes to continue to build on these discussions as a means to better equip parents and caregivers to engage with Autism.