Ethical Considerations in Providing Sexuality Education to People With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Ethical Considerations in Providing Sexuality Education to People With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Peggy J. Schaefer Whitby (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2987-4.ch001

Abstract

Sexuality education is a sensitive topic as the norms surrounding sexuality education differ across cultures. It is even more sensitive when providing education to people with disabilities as society may have misperceptions regarding sexuality for people with disabilities. The social communication deficits for people with ASD make sexuality education for this population even more complex. Given complexity, there are some considerations that parents, teachers, and therapists need to keep in mind when teaching sexuality education to students who have ASD. A brief overview of sexuality education and discussion on ethical considerations is provided.
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Introduction

There are at least four concerns that justify teaching sexuality education to people with ASD (Travers & Tincani, 2010; Travers, Tincani, Schaefer-Whitby, & Boutot, 2014). First, people with ASD are sexually abused at a higher rate than the typical population (Mandell, Walrath, Manteuffel, Sgro, & Pinto-Martin, 2005). Without education, these people may not understand that what is happening to them is wrong and therefore may not report the abuse. Second, people with ASD have a right to develop meaningful relationships, get married, and become parents. Without education people with ASD may have difficulty developing relationships to facilitate these outcomes (Whitby & Travers, 2019). Third, a lack of education can lead to challenging behavior (Stokes & Kaur, 2005). Lacking education, people with ASD respond to their biological needs but may make mistakes in demonstrating their sexuality. Fourth, sexuality education is needed to promote health and hygiene. Without education, people with ASD are at risk for sexual-related health issues ranging from lack of basic care to sexually transmitted disease. As a society we understand the importance of sexuality education, yet we still struggle with who is responsible for teaching the skills and what exactly should be taught.

Many times, professionals find themselves in a position where they need to address sexuality education issues or support acquisition of sexuality behaviors. However, professionals may lack the resources, expertise, and knowledge needed to provide appropriate support (Howard-Barr et al, 2005). This book provides practitioners and families with real case studies that demonstrate how sexuality education can be addressed and includes examples of positive outcomes associated with sexuality education. Further emphasized is the complexity of providing sexuality education services to those with ASD. However, prior to teaching sexuality education, practitioners should consider ethical concerns surrounding the topic. This chapter provides a brief overview of sexuality and a discussion on ethical considerations that should be explored by persons teaching sexuality education to people with ASD.

Complexity of Sexuality

Sexuality is a broad concept characterized by physical, emotional, and social development (National Commission on Adolescent Sexual Health [NCASH], 1995). Sexuality encompasses anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, identity, personality, and roles that are manifested in our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships with others. Attitudes, beliefs, and values are important aspects of sexuality education and differ across cultures (NCASH, 1995). Understanding one’s own sexuality is a lifelong learning process that forms our sexual identity (SIECUS, 2004). When considering these broad concepts along with the learning needs of people with ASD, it is clear that support is needed beyond the typical educational practices provided in school and, many times, at home.

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