, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 229-240

Social/sexual awareness of persons with autism: A parental perspective

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A parental survey that addressed the social sexual awareness, sex education, and sex behaviors of persons with autism, a developmental disability is provided. Questionnaires from 100 caregivers of persons with autism 9 years of age and older and with the DSM-III-R diagnosis were analyzed. Eighty-five percent of respondents were mothers, 8% both parents, 5% fathers, and 2% others; 32% of the persons with autism were female and 68% male with an age range of 9.1 to 38.9 years. The verbal level of the person with autism related to parents' beliefs about the relevance of sex relations (χ2 = 6.99, p < 0.05) and sex education (χ2 = 22.91, p < 0.001). No relationship between parents' report of the verbal level of the individual and the display of inappropriate sexual behaviors was found (χ2 = 2.56, ns). Parents of males were more concerned about their son being taken advantage of by a same-sex person (χ2 = 15.90, p < 0.001); parents of females were worried about an opposite-sex person (χ2 = 4.06, p < 0.05). Parental concerns and beliefs regarding sexuality varied and could not be generalized. The nonsignificant finding regarding verbal level and display of inappropriate sexual behaviors suggests that the need for sex education is best determined by the behaviors of the person rather than the functioning or verbal levels.