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Sex, Aspergers & Autism

A list of books, articles, and videos for parents, singles, and couples.

Paul Joannides, Psy.D.
Source: Paul Joannides, Psy.D.

Here is an extensive list of books, articles, and websites that I've put together on sex, Asperger's, and autism.

I’ve tried to divide these resources into two parts: Part 1 is for parents, teachers, therapists, teens, and preteens, and part 2 is for adults with autism and their partners, who may or may not have autism.

There is some crossover between the two parts (e.g., Naked Brain Ink should be in both sections). Also, you might wonder why a few of the resources I've listed aren't specifically on sex and autism. I believe it's difficult to understand more about sex and autism if you don't have a good sense of what autism is, to begin with.

Some of the most highly regarded books on autism in general are NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman, Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant, and anything written by Temple Grandin (I've listed some of her books at the end of Part 1).

Beyond separating the following resources into Part 1 and 2, there is no way I could tell which are best for your needs, so I haven't listed them in any particular order.

Part 1: For Parents, Teachers, Therapists, Teenagers, and Preteens

Nathan and Sylvia is a brief YouTube video that tells the story of a boy with autism and his autism service dog. This video isn't about sex. It's about love. It's Nathan's story in his own words about how he was struggling terribly middle school. Then his parents got him a service dog named Sylvia, who helped change his life. Sylvia became Nathan's best friend and showed him how to do more than just live with autism.

Nathan is in college now, with Sylvia still by his side. (Nathan's high school district did not want him to bring Sylvia to school with him and tried to prevent it from happening. Nathan's parents eventually got a law passed in their state legislature to allow autism service dogs in schools.)

Here's Nathan's YouTube channel: Autism ACTUALLY Speaking. It's where he gives advice on subjects like coping with change, managing anxiety, and making friends.

Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities is a book by Karin Melberg Schwier and Dave Hingburger.

The Growing Up Book for Boys: What Boys on the Autism Spectrum Need to Know! is a book by Davida Hartman, one of the most respected educators for children with autism and developmental disabilities. It explains the growth spurts, body changes, and mood swings of adolescence for boys aged 9-14. This is a time when bodies start acting with a will of their own, friendships change, and crushes start to develop.

The Growing Up Books use direct language and cool color illustrations; this book helps boys understand what they need to know about growing hair in new places, shaving, wet dreams, unexpected erections, and more.

The Growing Up Guide for Girls: What Girls on the Autism Spectrum Need to Know!, by Davida Hartman, is a one-stop guide for young girls that explains about puberty and adolescence. Using simple, literal language and fun color illustrations, this book explains the facts about body changes, such as growing hair in new places, periods, wearing a bra, and more.

Disability Scoop is a news organization that provides a reliable source of information and resources for the entire disability community, including those with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fragile X, and intellectual disabilities. Their series, such as Scoop Essentials, take an in-depth look at what lies beyond the day’s headlines.

Questions about Masturbation and Sexual Fantasy comes from an interview with Mary Greenfield at Disability Scoop. Mary does an excellent job of explaining some of the issues involved with masturbation and sexual fantasies for parents of teens and young adults who are socially and developmentally delayed.

Making Sense of Sex: A Forthright Guide to Puberty, Sex and Relationships for People with Asperger's Syndrome by Sarah Attwood covers physical changes as well as the social and emotional aspects of puberty, sex, and relationships. It includes hygiene, personal care, emotional changes, moods, sexual feelings, social experiences, and reproduction.

The Aspie Girl's Guide to Being Safe with Men: The Unwritten Safety Rules No-one is Telling You is another helpful book: "For Aspie girls and women, dating and sexual relationships can be confusing, intimidating and potentially dangerous. A lack of understanding about acceptable social interaction between men and women can leave Aspies vulnerable to negative experiences. It is vital, therefore, that the facts and unwritten rules about sexual conduct and relationships are clearly laid out for girls and women on the spectrum."

Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences is a book by Haley Moss, a teenage girl with autism. This book has received excellent reviews and comes highly recommended for middle school girls. Also, by the same girl a few years later... A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About!

Life on the Autism Spectrum: A Guide for Girls and Women by Karen McKibbin is one of the best new books on girls with autism, especially teenage girls. It follows the story of Alison, a girl diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, through both childhood and adulthood.

Another book for about girls and women on the autism spectrum that is receiving excellent reviews is Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age by Sarah Hendrickx.

While not specifically about sex, the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition offers an excellent lay of the land. It talks about things you need to know before you can help a child deal with sex and relationships.

Been There. Done That. Try This! An Aspie's Guide to Life on Earth provides advice from several accomplished people who have Aspergers. It talks about overcoming anxiety and poor self-esteem, accepting change, living with meltdowns, overcoming depression, living with sensory issues, making and keeping friends, understanding and succeeding with intimacy, dating, sex, and marriage, and more.

This series of videos from the University of Kentucky is designed to help health-care providers work with female patients who have developmental disabilities.

Teaching Parents Teaching Kids is the website of Sorah Stein, a certified sex educator and autism specialist who is also the parent of a child with autism. Sorah’s website has information for parents on talking to their children about puberty, privacy, hygiene, sex, and more. She also has more of a focus on children with IQs below 50.

The Facts of Life… and More: Sexuality and Intimacy for People With Intellectual Disabilities was written by Leslie Walker-Hirsch, one of the first people to understand the need to teach people with intellectual disabilities about sex. This book gives social workers, teachers, and direct support professionals with the information they need to educate people with disabilities about sexuality in ways that will help them make the best possible choices across their lifespan.

The Circles Curriculum are videos that teach boundaries and relationship-specific behaviors for students with learning disabilities, mild to severe mental disabilities, emotional handicaps, autism, sensory impairments, and affective disorders.

The program on intimacy and relationships is divided into two levels: The first level helps students “see” social distance and explains levels of intimacy and how those levels can change over time, and the second level illustrates more subtle applications of the Circles rules of social distance. There is a third program that teaches students how to recognize and avoid threatening or potentially abusive situations. Given the high price, these programs were created for schools and classrooms.

Asperger's Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence Through Adulthood by Isabelle Henault has information and advice on issues ranging from puberty and sexual development to gender identity disorders, and couples therapy to guidelines for sex education programs and maintaining sexual boundaries.

The Journal of Sexuality and Disability is the professional journal providing articles related to sexuality and disability/ability.

Sex Ed for the Parents and Caregivers of Children and Teens with Developmental Disabilities is a whopping long PDF from the Florida DD Council, written by DiAnn Baxley and Anna Zendell. Another from this group: Life Span Holistic Sexuality Education For Children & Adolescents With Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities: Sexuality Policies and Procedures.

Sex Ed for Students with Special Needs is a publication by Liz Sweeney with the kind of psychobabble and education-speak phrasing that you might need if you are an instructor trying to write a sex-ed proposal for a school board or district office.

The book Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger’s Syndrome–A User Guide to Adolescence, written by a 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s, is not about sex per se but offers a view of what life is like for one boy with Asperger’s. This book covers some of the challenges involved in dating and negotiating adolescent friendships and romance when you have Asperger’s. (While a book like this can be very helpful, it is the author's own personal view of Asperger's and will by no means apply to all kids with Asperger's.)

A lot of reviewers say The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism is one of the more important books written from the perspective of a young man with autism. One of the unusual aspects of this young man's autism is that he is able to describe and verbalize his experience much better than most. This by itself should be an indicator that while this may be a magnificent book, it does not describe all people with autism.

The Asperkid's (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome, winner of the Autism Society America Book of the Year award, provides Asperkids with their own guide to the hidden social rules that can be very confusing, even if they seem obvious to everyone else. This book gets great reviews from parents of kids without autism, as well as teens with autism.

Social Skills for Teenagers with Developmental and Autism Spectrum Disorders: The PEERS Treatment Manual offers parents of teens and young adults with autism, ADHD, and bipolar a guide to making and keeping friends. It suggests rules and steps of social etiquette to help assist in improving conversational skills, expanding social opportunities, and developing strategies for handling peer rejection. There is also The PEERS Curriculum for School-Based Professionals.

The Science of Making Friends, (w/DVD): Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults by Elizabeth Laugeson, one of the co-authors of the PEERS Treatment Manual, gets a lot of 5-star reviews on Amazon:

"With the book’s concrete rules and steps of social etiquette, parents will be able to assist in improving conversational skills, expanding social opportunities, and developing strategies for handling peer rejection. Each chapter provides lessons with clear bulleted lists of key rules and steps; and expert advice on how to present the material to a teen or young adult. Throughout the book are role-playing exercises for practicing each skill, along with homework assignments to ensure the newly learned skills can be applied easily to a school, work, or other real-life settings. The attached DVD shows role-play of skills covered, demonstrating the right and wrong way to enter conversations, schedule get-togethers, and deal with conflict."

There is also The Healthy Bodies Toolkit (English and Spanish), a publication by Vanderbilt Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND). There are separate versions for boys and girls. Each version has a booklet for parents or teachers and supplemental materials which include storyboards and visuals. It is free, and there is a Spanish version.

Disability Workshops describes skills that are helpful in teaching about sexuality education. Each curriculum includes 20 lessons, handouts, and a manual on leading sexuality education classes. Topics include types of relationships, public and private, relationship skills, decision-making and communication skills, and sexual relationship skills.

Puberty and Adolescence Resource: A Guide for Parents of Children with Autism from Autism Speaks helps parents teach their children about the natural changes of puberty. It provides additional strategies for preteens with ASD.

The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law: What every parent and professional needs to know, a book by Nick Dubin, Isabelle Henault and Tony Attwood, gets a lot of 5-star reviews on Amazon. It examines how ASD typically affects sexuality, and how sexual development differs between the general population and those with ASD. It explains the legalities of sexual behavior.

Another resource is Sexuality and Relationship Education for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Professional's Guide to Understanding, Preventing and Responding to Inappropriate Behaviours by Davida Hartman. From a review by an ASD specialist with many years of experience: "This book should be required reading for anyone who has a kid with ASD or works with them." It helps provide strategies regarding puberty, sexuality, and relationships.

Visual Aids for Learning are designed to help improve the independence and self-esteem of all people with learning difficulties. The resources have been developed in consultation with teachers trained in early childhood, primary school, high school, and speech therapy. Each of these professionals is also the parent of a child with developmental delays.

"The Ring of Safety: Teaching People with Disabilities to Be Their Own First-Line of Defense" is a highly regarded article by Dave Hingsburger

Another resource is Sex Education and Puberty from the National Autistic Society of the UK.

The Birds and the Bees is a website created by Sarah Curtiss that provides information to parents, professionals, and self-advocates on how to teach human sexuality to individuals with special needs. This very helpful site has a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders. It provides lesson plans, teaching strategies, and other helpful information. All of the resources are free, and it offers resources in Spanish for Youth with Disabilities.

Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities is a book by Karin Melberg Schwier & Dave Hingburger.

Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality is a book by Terri Couwenhoven, who is an incredible sex educator for children with intellectual disabilities and the mother of a child with Down syndrome. The book is good for children with autism as well as Down Syndrome. It provides practical ideas for teaching children about their bodies, puberty, and sexuality. It helps parents to feel more confident in speaking to their children about these subjects.

The Boys' Guide to Growing Up by Terri C. Couwenhoven gives boys with intellectual disabilities the facts they need to navigate puberty. It is written at a third-grade reading level for boys aged 9-16 with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, fragile X, or other special needs.

The Girls' Guide to Growing Up: Choices and Changes in the Tween Years by Terri C. Couwenhoven is an appealing and easy-to-follow guide for girls with intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and fragile X. It explains the physical and emotional changes girls will encounter during puberty. This book is written on a third-grade reading level for preteens or young, teenage girls to read by themselves or with a parent. It is filled with age-appropriate facts, realistic illustrations and photos, icons, and a Q&A.

The New Social Story Book, Revised and Expanded 15th Anniversary Edition: Over 150 Social Stories that Teach Everyday Social Skills to Children and Adults with Autism and Their Peers by Carol Gray is an excellent resource to help promote social understanding in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Carol Gray's excellent new website helps you create your own Social Stories. Social Stories are a social learning tool that supports the safe and meaningful exchange of information between parents, professionals, and people with autism of all ages.

Just about everyone who has ever read books about autism says that NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman should be at the top of your list.

In a book review, Temple Grandin says this about the book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism: "Dr. Prizant explains the causes of behaviors associated with autism. I love his approach for understanding problems with sensory overload, anxiety and discomfort. He provides common sense, practical advice based on a 40-year career working in the trenches with both parents and teachers."

Some of the best books on autism have been written by Temple Grandin:

Part 2: For Adults With Autism and Their Partners, Who May or May Not Have Autism

If you are limited to only one resource on sexuality and the autism-spectrum, Naked Brain Ink would be one to consider. Created by a young woman with a unique autism perspective, you’ll also find extensive articles on everything from "What Are the Greatest Myths of Autism and Sexuality" to "Sex Things an OB/GYN Needs to Know When Taking Care of a Patient with ASD."

Navigating Love and Autism from the New York Times is part of an excellent series titled Autism, Grown-Up–Love on the Spectrum.

"Autistics Do It Better" is a very funny and insightful post about John Scott Holman's first sexual experience, and how far he's come since then. (Warning: This article violates the number-one rule of all things written on Asperger's and autism: It has a sense of humor!)

The article "What It's Like to Have Sex with Someone Who Has Asperger's" by Penelope Trunk should be required reading for anyone with Asperger's who wants to have sex or anyone whose partner has Autism Spectrum issues.

Another good resource is The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch. If 400 4+ ratings on Amazon count for anything, then this very funny book should be golden. And if there's one thing I can assure you of, finding books on autism by authors who have a sense of humor is rare and to truly be valued. From the publisher:

"At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What the @#!% is wrong with my husband?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis explains David’s ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, but it doesn’t make him any easier to live with. Determined to change, David sets out to understand Asperger syndrome and learn to be a better husband with an endearing yet hilarious zeal. His methods for improving his marriage involve excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the Journal of Best Practices: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies, including 'Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along' and 'Apologies do not count when you shout them.'"

Sex, Sexuality And The Autism Spectrum, a book by Wendy Lawson, includes information about same-sex relationships and transgender issues.

Another resource is "Dating and Relationships for People with Learning and Developmental Disabilities" by sexuality training specialist Mary Greenfield in an interview at Disability Scoop.

Love, Sex and Long-Term Relationships: What People With Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want, a book by Sarah Hendrickx, can be helpful for people who don’t have Asperger’s but are in a relationship with someone who does.

Asperger Syndrome—A Love Story, a book by Sarah Hendrickx and Keith Newton, is written by a young man with Asperger’s and his wife who doesn’t have Asperger’s.

It’s interesting how hot or cold the reader reviews are on Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work, a book by Katrin Bentley, the wife of a husband with Asperger’s. Perhaps she is more straightforward about how critical and difficult he can be, and this makes it more difficult for people to understand why she has stayed with him. Or maybe other books present a greater range of Asperger-like behaviors, and it’s easier to generalize from them if your spouse’s behavior doesn’t mirror that of this author’s husband.

A number of reviewers find the book Loving Someone with Asperger's Syndrome: Understanding and Connecting with your Partner (The New Harbinger Loving Someone Series) to be very helpful, but keep in mind the author mainly focuses on one type of Asperger's. If you or your partner have this type of Asperger's, then you'll get very good information from this book.

Asperger Syndrome and Long-Term Relationships by Ashley Stanford, another wife of an Aspie dude, is one of the more upbeat books by women who marry men on the Autism spectrum. It includes a number of solutions that other couples have found helpful.

22 Things a Woman With Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know is one of the 22 Things books by Rudy Simone, a woman who has Asperger's herself and is able to write about in ways that are intuitive and easy to understand.

22 Things a Woman Must Know: If She Loves a Man With Asperger’s Syndrome is another good book, also by Rudy Simone.

Aunt Aspie's Weapon of Mass Instruction offers wisdom, one-liners, and occasional advice from Rudy Simone, the author of the award-winning books Aspergirls, Aspergers on the Job, and the 22 Things series on relationships. This is for people who need an alphabetical, philosophical, lighthearted guide to some serious issues: social, sensory, cognitive, executive functioning, dating, procreating, and even stomach issues.

Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life is considered to be one of the best books by a woman with Asperger's on what it's like to be a woman with Asperger's. Cythia Kim's other highly regarded book is the brief I Think I Might Be Autistic: A Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis and Self-Discovery for Adults.

Autism in Love is a feature-length documentary that explores the lives of four autistic adults as they pursue and manage romantic relationships.

From the publisher of Asperger Syndrome—A Love Story:

"Open, honest and upbeat, this book gives personal insight into both the ups and downs of an Asperger relationship. Seeking to challenge the bad press that people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) get as partners, Sarah and Keith tell their story of how they are making it work—and also how they got it wrong."

Ramon Selove is a Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at a college in Virginia. He has Autism (the Asperger's variety). Here is what Ramon has written about Body Mapping, which should help anyone with Asperger's or a partner with Asperger's to better enjoy having sex together. This is Ramon's story of his childhood back before Asperger's had a name.

The author of Boyfriends and Girlfriends: A Guide to Dating for People with Disabilities, Terri Couwenhoven, is one of the most wonderful and respected people in the field. This is her new book for teens and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

There are extensive forums at Wrong Planet about many aspects of sex and relationships. Enter the word "sex" or more specific terms in the search box. You'll find there are hundreds of threads.

In I’m Autistic, My Husband’s Not, this couple's goal is to answer 20 questions about their relationship. This article is part 1. It provides another helpful look into the lives of two people who are taking on the challenges that life has thrown their way.

There is controversy within the Autism-Spectrum Community about the books and theories of Maxine Aston. Some people feel there is a demonization of individuals with autism spectrum issues and that it is done with a heavy hand and little regard for science, others praise her work. I suggest you give it a read and decide if all or parts of Ms. Aston’s work is helpful for your situation.

The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A Guide to Living in an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who is on the Autism Spectrum—Second Edition is the second edition of Maxine Aston's highly regarded book. It explains Asperger Syndrome, discusses whether or not seeking an autism diagnosis will help and offers simple strategies for coping with a range of relationship challenges, including communication, social, and intimacy difficulties.

Asperger Syndrome in the Bedroom by Maxine Aston describes some of the issues that impact couples where one or both partners have autism-spectrum issues and offers ways to cope. These issues include sensory sensitivity, obsessive interests, and motor clumsiness.

What Men with Asperger Syndrome Want to Know About Women, Dating and Relationships, a book by Maxine Aston and Tony Atwood, provides answers to the questions that men with Asperger's frequently ask about women, dating, and relationships. It helps them understand the way relationships work, increasing their confidence and ability to have successful relationships.

Aspergers in Love: Couple Relationships and Family Affairs, a book by Maxine Aston, examines the aspects of relationships that are often complicated by Asperger's. With real-life examples, it tackles issues such as attraction, trust, communication, intimacy, and parenting and includes a section on frequently asked questions.

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