Sunday, 29 December 2013

Autism and Sex Education

I've been doing some thinking lately about sex education and specifically, how to do it within my family and for my nine year old in particular.

I don't want to debate on whether or not he should be educated.  He has the right to know what to expect from his body in the next couple years so that he's not frightened or ashamed.  He will eventually have sexual desires and needs to know how to make good choices on how to deal with them.  And he needs to know what is okay and not okay in a relationship.

That is a huge amount of information to convey and I'm finding the various autism online sites to be relatively unhelpful.  Most of them suggest just waiting until your child has questions and then be open to answer them in a direct and age appropriate manner.  Great advice.  Except if your child is non-verbal or has communication challenges.

My oldest is not likely to ask.  He has solely functional language capabilities at this point.  He can ask for a glass of milk but isn't likely to ask me what's going on if he feels funny in his pants.

I'm really worried about him being scared or confused by his body's reaction.  I may not have ever been a teenage boy but my husband assures me that the jokes about spontaneous erections during adolescence do not exaggerate the situation.  I want my son to understand that this is a normal part of growing up and that he shouldn't be mocked or feel ashamed about it.  I want him to understand the socially appropriate methods for handling it.  But I don't want him to feel that he is dirty or depraved or a sex maniac.

It's an incredibly fine line to try and follow with any child.  For one with communication difficulties and trouble with social cues, it's almost microscopic. 

Then we come to the emotional vs physical age challenge.  Emotionally, he's closer to a four or five year old.  So I have to explain puberty but do so in a way which is developmentally appropriate for a much younger child.  (Surprisingly, very little on the Internet on this although I'm a little worried about punching in search terms which will get me on an FBI or RCMP watchlist.)

I'm working on muddling through.  So far, I've found two very good bits of advice to pass on to boys:

1) Physical response doesn't always match emotional response.  He can be uncomfortable with something but still find himself reacting to it.  That doesn't mean what happened is "okay" or that he enjoyed it.  (This is one of the common tools predators use to lure in children and teens: you responded so you must have enjoyed it.)

2) A boy's first time with a sex partner should not be marred with drugs or alcohol on the part of either party, ever.  (This one is a great rule of thumb to help avoid date rape issues.)

I'll keep looking for tips and hopefully I can make myself understood.  I'll have to do it very gradually and make sure he has a solid foundation before I build on it.

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