Autistic spectrum disorders affect young people in a variety of ways. The disability can lower inhibitions and can slow or block social development. No indication exists, however, that autism slows sexual development or blocks curiosity. This can lead to a range of problems, including the child’s attempt to inappropriately touch or explore another person. Unlike other children, the autistic child might have a harder time understanding why he can’t touch another’s genitals. The majority of children do not act out of malice or power. Instead, poor self-control and hormones are usually to blame.
Act early. The earlier parents set down guidelines for the child, the longer the child has to learn appropriate behavior. Licensed psychologist Jenny Tuzikow points out that parents should work with children on stopping inappropriate touching even as children. When the young person begins puberty, hormones can easily overpower the teen, making it difficult to stop this behavior.
Correct the behavior immediately. As soon as the child touches someone in an inappropriate manner, remove the child’s hand and firmly say "no."
Praise appropriate touching. At no time do you want the child to think all touching is wrong. Tuzikow encourages parents to immediately redirect the child’s actions into appropriate touching. For example, once you remove the child’s hand from a breast, you can continue to hold the hand and say, “Let’s hold hands instead.” In addition, when she touches someone appropriately, praise her. For example, after meeting a new person you might say: “I love how you shook her hand.”
Be consistent. Children with autism need many repetitions to change or learn new behavior, according to a 2012 publication by University of Florida Extension. However, when the child gets different reactions to behavior, he gets mixed messages. This means it will take longer to stop inappropriate touching if the child gets away with the behavior sometimes and is reprimanded other times. To create a unified front, talk to the child’s teachers and other care givers to ensure that the child gets the same response every time.
- It is important to understand that autistic children have a libido and sexual curiosity. It is important that parents discuss the child's sexual future long before puberty hits.
- If your pre-pubescent child suddenly starts to act out sexually and withdraws or acts out violently, talk to your pediatrician about his behavior.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Monarch Center for Autism: Sexuality
- New York State Office for People with Developmental Disorders:Responding to Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors Displayed by Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders
- University of Florida: Creating a Successful Early Learning Environment for Children Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Autism Speaks: Abuse
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