Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental condition. Autism spectrum disorder individuals are interested in sexual activity and pursuing romantic relationships, yet they often lack psychosexual knowledge and engage in risky sexual behaviors. The special learning needs of ASD individuals influence their exclusion from educational and social settings, resulting in fewer opportunities to acquire sex knowledge from reliable sources.
This review aimed to explore factors influencing sexual knowledge and evaluate outcomes of comprehensive, ASD-tailored psychosexual education.
PubMed, PsychINFO, and EBSCOhost databases were used to locate peer-reviewed articles in English in the 5 years between 2013 and 2018. Keywords included “autism spectrum disorder,” “child abuse,” “sexual,” “sexual offenses,” “sexual abuse,” and “sexual education.”
Nine articles were included in the review. Compared with neurotypical adults, ASD adults had less sex-related knowledge, more victimization experiences, and obtained sexual information from more nonsocial sources. Knowledge is a partial mediator between ASD diagnosis and sexual victimization. Parents expressed having little support to educate their offspring and provided less sex education to children with intellectual disability and severe symptoms. Psychosexual education programs that are tailored to suit developmental and cognitive differences of ASD individuals increase knowledge and improve parent–child communication, especially for younger adolescents.
Implications for practice:
Nurse practitioners who care for ASD individuals should assess knowledge and victimization experiences, assess parent perceptions and concerns, and provide guidance for developmentally and intellectually appropriate sex education. These should be incorporated into practice starting at a young age and continue across the lifespan.