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Autism Spectrum Disorder, Adolescence, and Sexuality Education: Suggested Interventions for Mental Health Professionals

Abstract

Physical and emotional changes occurring during adolescence can present serious challenges to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Social skills deficits may become more pronounced and the awakening of sexual urges and behaviors may not be understood by youth with ASD and their families. Mental health providers can help to address these changes, primarily in the area of sexuality education. However the extant literature on ASD and sexuality is limited. This article highlights issues inherent in the sexuality education of adolescents with ASD, and presents three methods for intervention: Applied Behavior Analysis, Social Stories, and Social Behavior Mapping. Examples of each intervention are provided to promote collaboration among clinicians, families and adolescents with ASD to address sexuality and to ensure adequate preparation for transition to adulthood.

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Notes

  1. The term “mental health providers/professionals” will be used in this article to refer to psychologists, social workers, behavior specialists, and related professionals concerned with the mental health of adolescents with ASD.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a Grant from the Organization for Autism Research awarded to Michelle S. Ballan.

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Correspondence to Michelle S. Ballan.

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Ballan, M.S., Freyer, M.B. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Adolescence, and Sexuality Education: Suggested Interventions for Mental Health Professionals. Sex Disabil 35, 261–273 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-017-9477-9

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Sexuality education
  • Social skills
  • Social stories
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Social behavior mapping
  • United States