Sexuality Education for Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities


In this video, Dr. Achey discusses dating as it relates to children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities. As a reminder, each of these training sessions 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.

To want to date is part of growing up. Talking about dating will help open communication doors between you and your child. Plus, dating is something your child has likely already heard about, and may even understand. However, they may have misconceptions about dating or even their own unique understanding of what dating means. Your role is to guide them through the process, instilling family and society values regarding dating. As you speak with adolescents, do not forget to take into account the very real emotions your child may be feeling.

Many parents and caregivers are concerned if they talk about dating, girlfriends or boyfriends, sex or anything else related to sexuality that it will encourage their children to be interested in and have sex earlier than they would have otherwise. A lot of research has found that when children are spoken to about their sexuality, they will make better decisions around sex and relationships. So go ahead and discuss your family’s expectations and values about dating and sexual activity. Sharing your experiences may help your child understand dating better too. 

Some of you may feel that your child does not have the ability to appropriately participate in dating. In this situation you can help the child form relationships that you feel are appropriate. Keep in mind that “dating” to your child may be, talking to another person on the phone or computer, going with someone to the movies as part of a larger group, or even getting to sit next to someone at lunch in school. The key is to help your child experience as many opportunities as possible to form appropriate relationships. Consider extracurricular activities like helping with a sports team, associating your child with others who are interested in their hobbies, crafting, or a specific club of interest to them. 

Other topics covered in this video include:

  • Dating expectations
  • Dating basics
  • How to flirt
  • Making decisions about sex and intimacy
  • Signs of an unhealthy relationship
  • How to protect your child