Early Childhood and Sexuality for the ASD Population

Chaturi Edrisinha



The complexity of sexuality, especially for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), necessitates early and comprehensive education on topics ranging from body awareness to safe sex practices. As argued in this presentation from the 2023 Michigan Autism Conference, teaching sexual competence should begin in childhood, integrated into Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and encompassing various developmental domains such as communication, socio-emotional skills, and independent living. This approach respects cultural values and supports a better quality of life for the child with ASD.

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The topic of sexuality is multifaceted and complex. Sexual competence, broadly defined as having the ability, skills, or knowledge to successfully engage in sex, is a key developmental challenge. However, sexual competence can be a difficult and often a taboo topic for parents/clinicians to address. ASD compounds this topic. From the basics of discovering his/her/their bodies to hygiene, navigating puberty, identity, sexual health, friendships, relationships, and engaging in safe sex, need to be specifically taught. Therefore, it is paramount that teaching youth with ASD about the complicated and allusive topic of sexuality must take place in early childhood. Such teachings need to be age appropriate with a life-long perspective that sets the building blocks for expansion to take place throughout the child’s life. Teaching these topics can achieve better results when they are incorporated in a child’s IEP goals and addressed holistically in areas of general education, communication & language, socio-emotional behavioral, perception, and independent living skills. Developing such a perspective to include topics related to long term sexual understanding and competence by the IEP team that respect the family’s culture helps to support a high level of quality of life for the child.

About the Speaker

Chaturi Edrisinha is a board-certified behavior analyst. She received her Ph.D. in autism and developmental disabilities and her M.Ed. in early childhood special education from The University of Texas at Austin. An overarching agenda in Dr. Edrisinha’s research is to develop instructional and support strategies in order to foster independence and inclusion for persons with autism spectrum disorders. She has been successful in obtaining multiple research grants totaling more than $100,000. She published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, and book chapters in many prestigious journals, including the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Research in Developmental Disabilities, and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities and presented at numerous national and international conferences.

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Dr. Chaturi Edrisinha
Early Childhood and Sexuality for the ASD Population
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