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How do I talk to my child or teen with autism about masturbation?

Chantal Sicile-Kira
Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities
Let’s face it: Masturbation is a normal activity that almost all teenagers engage in. Once discovered, it is an activity hard to stop, especially for individuals who enjoy self-stimulatory activities and can be obsessive-compulsive, as are many people on the autism spectrum. The best approach is teaching your teen that this is a private activity to be done only at home in a designed place, such as his bedroom or bathroom.
William Stillman
Health Education

Thank you for your important question. By asking it, you are acknowledging that your child with autism’s sexuality is something to be addressed and not ignored. This is relevant because all too often, people tend to think about issues of sexuality and so-called disabilities as taboo or not worthy of consideration. But how dare we presuppose the authority to regulate others’ humanity by suggesting “do as I say, not as I do,” or that sexual activity is reserved only for the elite (i.e. those who are “normal”)!

You are doing your child a great service—not opening a Pandora’s Box—by educating him about masturbation so that he can be respectfully informed about a positive and appropriate outlet for release; so that he will know the proper way to manipulate his genitals; and so that he will understand the social protocols and expectations about private versus public conduct.

Knowledge is power, and you will want to inform your child with autism about his sex organs and how they function in a manner that will be retained by him. This may best be accomplished visually with pictures and words. Such materials may be available through your local library, community-based family centers, or through online educational resources. A written narrative for explaining masturbation to our autistic boys and young men may be found in my books The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Asperger’s Syndrome and The Autism Answer Book.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.