I am far from an expert on this topic but I do want to share some info that I have learned along the way. Because everyone has to go through these issues and no one really wants to talk about it. And remember my son wasn’t diagnosed until age 13 so most of this we went through without knowledge of diagnosis and understanding that he would need further explanation than most kids.
When I learned that the school was going to be covering sexual education I knew immediately that I would need to prepare him for the discussion. I wasn’t sure how he would react to this information. Prior to this time (10 I think) we hadn’t discussed the mechanics. We just discussed in general. He became upset one day when he noticed our wedding picture and realized he had not been invited to the wedding. We of course had to modify this as he got older and realized not all married people had babies, and not all people with babies were married. Anyways he had heard the word sex and knew it was something adults did but not the mechanics.
I was really glad that I spoke to him about the mechanics prior to the school discussing it in school. When I told him the very basic explanation of sex in very literal terms he yelled “THAT’S GROSS!” It is important to be very literal of the mechanics but of course how it is discussed depends on the age and your child. There are plenty of books out there to help with pictures and everything. Even books especially written for autistics. Also of course your families values come in to play as well. But not discussing sex is not the answer.
I also explained slang terms to him because I knew he would hear them. Thanks to attending a public middle school he has now taught me some slang words.
Since he has had a history of issues with hitting and hugging people all the time we instated a rule very early of no touching people. We also discussed about people should never touch him but this is discussed further below. Over time we have explained more thoroughly appropriate touching of others and as we hit puberty this has become more, well um, interesting.
Ah but first, the issue of nudity. We live in the states and in the states here we are odd about nudity. We really can’t decide how we feel about it. Before I get a million comments about that let me explain. We were watching TV and a commercial came on for “Girls Next Door”. For those of you not aware it was a reality show about Hugh Hefner’s playboy girlfriends. The commercial showed footage of the girls topless with some of it pixeled out. Whatever you saw everything but their nipples & they have boobs way bigger than their heads. I looked over at my son and his eyes were huge and then he started crying. I still don’t know why exactly maybe their freakishly huge boobs scared him. Anyways we took that opportunity to discuss more female anatomy.
After this incident I was a little worried about an upcoming trip to Europe. As the time for the trip approached I had so many things to explain to him in preparation. I made a point to explain to him that we would be going to a lot of museums and he would be seeing some naked bodies but it was just art. I also explained that nudity is handled a bit differently over there. I was really glad that I did because in Paris the posters for the Louvre had women’s breasts on them. They were partially covered but not exactly. That poster was everywhere. I guess I should thank my friends in Europe for helping him get over his fear of nudity or whatever it was!
I think that puberty is probably hard for any teenager but I think more difficult for an aspie. Okay so some of this is going to be from what I have learned from my experiences and some will be from what I learned at a recent seminar. Whether you have boys or girls “on the spectrum” they need to have very clear instructions on EVERYTHING.
Both need very clear explanations of what a friendship is, what dating means. What are the boundaries? When is appropriate to kiss? How to ask someone out on a date? What do you do on a date? I wrote recently about Women’s Health issues You Are Loved has also expanded to helping special needs families educate their daughters about their period. They can of course also be found on Twitter.
My son tried dating and decided it made him uncomfortable. I am aware of other girls that have asked him out (seriously!!) and he has said no he doesn’t date. I have told him that there is no rush to dating and he can wait until he is ready. That can be 30 for all I care! I do know that they discuss dating and that stuff in the social skills class that he is in. I am glad that he has such a good relationship with his male teacher that is also his case manager. I think it is important for teenagers to feel comfortable talking about these issues with an adult.
Unfortunately there are some sick individuals out there so any adult (EVEN FAMILY) cannot be completely trusted. Your child should not be alone with someone you don’t trust but it is hard to know who to trust. Any adult interactions should always be monitored to prevent sexual abuse. I saw that Sandusky is now claiming he was just helping the kids with hygiene. Seriously? My son has issues with hygiene too but I would seriously kill someone if they showered with him to “show him proper hygiene”.
I wasn’t planning to go there but there is really important. I have always talked to my son about sexual abuse and what it means. That discussion should start very young, it is NEVER too young for that discussion. Tell your kids if they are touched in ANY way that makes them uncomfortable they must tell immediately. This could even be another child or another older child. No matter what bullshit the other person tells your kid they must know they should tell. I was probably way more proactive because of issues in my past but I didn’t care I needed him to know. I asked him regularly. Here is very good article about sexual abuse written by Carter Lee. Please read. It is a huge issue and please, please talk to your children about it.
Also Kim Stagliano has written about sexual abuse related to non verbal autistics because she has dealt with this in her family. I know not everyone agrees with everything Kim says. I don’t either but I have met her, I have looked into her eyes when she talks of her kids. She loves them fiercely!
Whether or not they are dating (or want to) you must still talk to them about dating and boundaries. At a seminar I attended the speaker told a story of a young aspie girl that attended a party. She was to be home at midnight and she ended up being the last person at the party, alone with the boy that hosted the party. The boy thought she did this on purpose and started making advances. The young girl didn’t know what to say or do. Luckily the time came for her to leave prior to anything other than kissing happened. So her rule following saved her!
I also had these types of discussions with my son. A) he needed to know what was appropriate for his age and for the stage of relationship. I honestly didn’t think he could figure that out on his own at least not at that time. B) He needed to know what to do if the girl tried to do something he didn’t want to do- yes that is possible. C) even though he clearly wasn’t ready, we still discussed safe sex. I told him he should wait until marriage or at least older and really in love. I also told him he shouldn’t have sex unless he was ready to have a baby. It is true and we all know it. But I am not naive we still discussed condoms. D) very important to me- he needed to know to have respect for a girl, even when she didn’t respect herself. Sometimes girls have low self esteem and do things they wouldn’t normally do for a boy to like them. If you have a girl it is important to discuss this with them but having a boy he needed to know that to. Self esteem issues are really a systemic issue that need to be addressed with everyone!
I really didn’t mean for this to be a post about the horrors of life and dating! But these are definitely the things to be concerned about.
Another thing that not everything thinks about discussing is masturbation. Seriously this needs to be discussed before you walk in on your 12 year old taking care of his business in the family room because nobody told him it is okay to do that but needs to happen in the bedroom. With the door closed!! Not that anything like this has happened in my house. That is definitely a “Youmightbeanautismparentif” I have thought about doing that one on twitter but I am too chicken.
At the seminar they discussed that their are videos that show how to masturbate. Apparently their are boys that have literally rubbed themselves raw because they did not know how to do that properly. OUCH Not sure whether or not I would show that video to my child but they do exist. I am pretty sure mine knows how it was just a matter of where.
Anyways I also had to have a very frank discussion about pornography in my house. Luckily I had a co-worker with a teenager with the same issue at the same time so we helped each other through that. Although it did make for a good laugh because he was using his iTouch to watch the porn. I had a lot of discussions about it and told him he really isn’t allowed just like he isn’t allowed to smoke either. I think that was what finally worked with him.
I think this is the longest post I have ever written and I know I haven’t even covered it all!! I know that as he starts to date I will have to have more frequent and candid discussions with him about having a partner and safe sex. I can’t wait.
Update: Thank you Soozthegreat for pointing out the glaring omission. I knew I was forgetting something important! I forgot the discussions on homosexuality. We have lots of family friends that are homosexual so this has actually been a frequent conversation in our house. My son has a very healthy outlook on homosexuality and was recently called a slang for homosexuality and handled it in a very mature way! Anyways I personally think this is an important thing to discuss with your teenager. They should never feel that this is an unnatural thing. And I am sorry I feel this way even if your religion says other wise. In my opinion they should feel loved and accepted regardless of their choices. When my son first commented that dating made him feel uncomfortable I offered that he could discuss this with one of our family friends. I felt it was important that he know he had someone to talk to that would understand if that were the case. He said “no mom, I know that I like girls. I am just not ready to date them.” Okay well if he decides differently later we will discuss further later.