Sexuality Education for Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

Sexual Health and Education Inequality

In this video, Dr. Achey discusses sexual health and sex as it relates to children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities. As a reminder, each of these training videos are brief and should not be considered a comprehensive source on the specific topics covered. Each family is encouraged to determine what information and activities are appropriate for their child.

All children and adolescents have questions and uncertainties related to their sexual health. However, children with intellectual disabilities are often omitted from sexual education classes at school and family conversations related to sexual safety and expectations. Not being taught about their sexuality can put young person with an intellectual disability at higher risk of abuse or exploitation.

It is up to you as a parent to create a safe and welcoming environment that will encourage open conversation. You will need to cater your conversation for your child’s developmental age rather than their biological age with many of these topics. Areas of sexual health topics to discuss with your child or adolescent may include: 

  • Encouraging a healthy and positive self-image of their bodies. 
  • Promoting relationships that are positive and not exploitative.
  • Providing information to help them make healthy decisions about their lives, bodies, etc.
  • Teaching your child to not violate others.
  • Helping your child understand they are sexual and help them understand the options and consequences of sexual expression.
  • Providing a clear understanding of pregnancy and of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and learn how to avoid STIs and pregnancy.
  • Reinforcing your child’s ability to make decisions while providing information on which they can base those decisions. 
  • Discussing contraceptive options and talking about the importance of condom use.
  • Discussing teens’ options, should unprotected intercourse occur—including emergency contraception and STI testing and treatment. 
  • Clearly articulating your family and religious values regarding sexual intercourse. Express that, although sex is pleasurable, adolescents should wait to initiate sex until they are in a mature, loving, and responsible relationship.
  • Discussing together the factors, including age, mutual consent, protection, contraceptive use, love, intimacy, etc., and that you and your child should both be a part of decisions about sexual intercourse.
  • Discussing exploitative behavior and why it is unhealthy and (in some cases) illegal.
  • Helping youth identify various physical and verbal responses to avoid/get away from sexual situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Promoting your child to feel good about their gender and inclusive language that recognizes that some children may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. 
  • Helping your child understand that they may relate and have more in common with younger children but that romantic feelings for those younger children are not appropriate.