Family Sexuality Communication for Adolescent Girls on the Autism Spectrum

J Autism Dev Disord. 2019 Jun;49(6):2403-2416. doi: 10.1007/s10803-019-03904-6.


Families are critical for supporting healthy sexuality and relationship development for youth with autism. The objective of this study was to describe family sexuality communication for adolescent girls with autism. Participants were 141 parents of autistic daughters who completed an online survey about sexuality development. Most parents relied on discussion alone rather than visual supports or skills-based teaching techniques. Intellectual functioning, child age, race/ethnicity, and whether youth expressed sexual interest in others affected family sexuality communication. We discuss how most parents covered important basics, but many did not cover more nuanced relationship or sexual health topics during family sexuality communication. Few used enhanced instructional techniques (e.g., visual supports, social stories), suggesting potential utilization barriers such as a lack of affordable and available resources. There is a need for research accounting for diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations including asexuality/demisexuality, and for transgender and gender diverse youth.

Keywords: Females; Gender; Puberty; Relationships; Sexuality and sexual health; Transition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Family Relations / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexuality / physiology
  • Sexuality / psychology*