From clearly expressed information to teaching children about 'stranger danger', some actions may need to be demonstrated and practiced to those with Autism
It is important to realise that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have difficulty understanding others' body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. In addition, they may not be aware that their own behaviour is inappropriate and that it can be distressing for others.
Watching TV and films, children often witness scenes of a sexual nature. A child with ASD may easily misinterpret these and develop an unrealistic notion of how relationships develop.
Explaining sexual issues to children can be a daunting task but it is crucial that children with ASD are taught this clearly and calmly and in a way that they understand.
If a particular behaviour is not acceptable at age 18, it will not be acceptable at age 8 and this is the time, or earlier, to start teaching appropriate or alternative behaviour. Children with ASD need to be taught what to do in certain situations as they may not learn these things intuitively like other children. It's very important to begin the teaching process as soon as possible.
If you are a parent or carer or are involved in the education of a child with ASD, it is important to:
• Comment on inappropriate behaviour every time it occurs
• Explain what is inappropriate about it, e.g. 'You kissed my friend on the lips and she has never met you before.'
• Explain how the behaviour made, or may have made, the other people feel, e.g. 'It made her feel embarrassed because she doesn't know you very well and she wasn't expecting you to do that.'
• Explain how the matter could have been handled more appropriately, e.g. 'You could have smiled at her or shaken her hand, instead.'
Sometimes adults with allow a younger child with ASD to do something of a sexual nature because it may seen 'funny' or 'cute' or 'they do not mean anything by it' or because the adult feels uncomfortable addressing the issue. This will not help the child in the future, it could actually be highly damaging. A child will be much more vulnerable to abuse if allowed to think that stroking an adult's breast, cuddling someone they don't know, kissing someone on the lips, talking in public about sexual matters or mastubating in the presence of others, is acceptable behaviour.
A child with ASD, even more so than other children, may need to be taught that there are certain rules about how we behave, which can help keep them and others safe, such as with whom sexual concerns can be discussed. It might be easier for some to write their sexual/relationship concerns down in a specified book and have an appropriate adult write the answer in the same book. This may work if the child does not want to voice their query.
They may also benefit from having a social story to help them develop a greater social understanding, or a visual aid to categorise relationships such as 'Intimacy Circles'. Refusing to discuss these issues (or labelling them as 'naughty', 'rude' or 'wrong') can have an affect on a child's sexual identity as they grow, and cause anxiety in the future.
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