Kids and teens with disabilities
Supporting a child with Autism
In this section
Talk soon and talk often to your child with Autism
As for all children, sexuality needs to be addressed with your child who has Autism from an early age and according to their ability to understand.
The Autism spectrum is wide: people with Autism may have a very limited grasp of spoken language or may speak with an extensive vocabulary.
Regardless of your child's ability to express themselves and to understand others, most children with Autism are likely to have difficulty with social communication and social relationships.
The ways that are proven to work best for people with Autism to learn in other subject areas will apply in teaching them about sexuality too.
What you can do to help
In guiding your child you must take into account the characteristics of Autism. Some ways to help you do this:
- Introducing correct body part names from an early age is especially important for your child with Autism as they can be very literal with their use of words.
Try to teach them names and concepts in a clear, straightforward way.
- Keep in mind that people with Autism generally understand information more easily when it is presented visually.
Use pictures, diagrams and lists (and avoid lengthy verbal explanations) to help your child understand.
See the free SECCA app for a bank of pictures to help teach relationships and sexual health topics.
- Self-esteem (as for all children) is especially important for your child who has Autism.
Their difficulties with social relationships might have weighed heavily throughout their young life and be intensified with adolescence.
Help them to gain a strong, positive sense of self.
- People with Autism are often perfectionists, expecting perfection in themselves and others.
Try to find the balance of boosting self-esteem and remaining respectful of others.
- People with Autism often have difficulty planning ahead and considering consequences.
Social stories can be helpful ways to address these difficulties as they are a gentle way of guiding your child towards a better outcome, keeping in mind other people too.
Develop the ‘story’ with your child by using words, pictures or a combination of both. Keep the ‘stories’ simple and clear and read the story often.
- Help your child to make a list of rules relating to self and others.
People with Autism often take rules extremely seriously (often feeling they should never be broken) so care must be taken in the way that rules are worded.
A valuable rule for your child might be, “I am a good person. I deserve good people in my life”.
Agencies for support
Autism Association of WA provides services to people with Autism and their families. They provide training, resources and support groups and more.