Autism is a spectrum of conditions that affect communication, sensation and sometimes other developmental abilities. What characterizes autism most of all is the lack of understanding that outsiders have for people on the autism spectrum, simply because individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) either cannot or appear not to want to express their will, their needs, their thoughts and their difficulties with other people.
Sexuality is primarily about communication and sensation, so people on the spectrum naturally find sexuality to be highly challenging, from meeting potential partners, to handling casual conversations, showing their interest and getting to know another person, as well as accepting touch and closeness.
Yet sexual feelings are natural in all healthy people and should be accepted and sexual outlet should be encouraged, whether by masturbation or between two consenting and willing individuals.
Special Considerations for Sexuality with Autism
- Special sensory needs must be addressed in order to create comfort before, during and after romantic or sexual experiences. This could include avoidance of background music, refraining from touching particular areas, organizing comfortable lighting or covering obstructing screens/clocks/mirrors. It could also involve intensifying sensory input such as giving deep massage or playing particular music.
- People with ASD often find making or receiving eye contact to be difficult. This may or may not be easier once intimacy has been achieved, but it should be explained so that partners do not feel that they are being evasive or distant.
- There is potential for sexual abuse when ASD individuals (especially, but not only, females) use their sexuality to seek acceptance among others. While people with ASD are typically highly intelligent, they also tend to display social naivete.
- Sexuality education is essential to prepare for real world sexuality conditions in great detail. Like everyone, they must learn to differentiate media representations of sexuality from what they are going to encounter.
- Some people with ASD prefer to seek relationships with others on the spectrum or with some form of disability. Others find that relationships with informed and sensitive neuro-typicals (non-ASD) to be a better match.
- In some cases, sexual communication can be simpler with ASD because they tend to speak more directly. Many sexual partners report enjoying very high sensitivity to non-verbal sexual cues and therefore increased cooperation in bed.