A new curriculum called “Healthy Relationships and Autism” is now available from Wesley Spectrum (a behavioral health organization with several locations in the Pittsburgh, PA area). It was designed to teach skills to adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or cognitive challenges in the areas of self care, sexuality, and relationship development. Their website has an example lesson to help you determine if it would be right for your students. They do not publish their pricing information (you have to email them for more information but they will send you a sample packet).
I have not used this curriculum but there is some evidence of it’s effectiveness. A study published in School and Educational Psychology evaluated this program with six students. These students showed increases in sexual knowledge which they retained one month after completing the class.
The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) was originally developed at UCLA by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Founder and Director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic, and Dr. Fred Frankel in 2005 and has expanded to locations across the United States and the world. PEERS is a manualized, social skills training intervention for youth with social challenges.
There are four options for getting training in PEERS. (1) The PEERS Certified Training Seminar last two days and is hosted at UCLA. It is designed specifically for mental health professionals and educators interested in learning and/or implementing the PEERS intervention into their clinical practice. (2) PEERS provides off-site training seminars, presentations or talks for a variety of agencies based on their specific needs. These may range from 1-4 days, with varying costs. (3) The PEERS Certified School-based Training for Educators is designed exclusively for teachers, school psychologists, counselors, speech and language pathologists, administrators, and school-based professionals who are interested in learning to implement The PEERS Curriculum for School-based Professionals. Attendees will obtain 24 hours of training over 3 days and this training also takes place at UCLA. And (4) PEERS provides off-site School-based training seminars, presentations or talks for a variety of agencies based on their specific needs. These may range from 1-4 days, with varying costs.
The PEERS program naturally lends itself to sex ed instruction. For example, the adolescent program focuses on
- How to use appropriate conversational skills
- How to find common interests by trading information
- How to appropriately use humor
- How to enter and exit conversations between peers
- How to be a good host during get-togethers
- How to make phone calls to friends
- How to choose appropriate friends
- How to be a good sport
- How to handle arguments and disagreements
- How to change a bad reputation
- How to handle rejection, teasing, and bullying
- How to handle rumors and gossip
This video features a program that uses PEERS for sex ed
This publication was developed and written by Vanderbilt Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND). There is a boy version and girl version. Each version has a booklet for parents or teachers and supplemental materials which include storyboards and visuals that you can use in implementing the methods outlined in the toolkit. It is free and there is a Spanish version!
Here is the website: https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/HealthyBodies/
These curricula materials are for educators working with young adults. It is a bit more in depth than the high school curriculum and discusses human sexuality in a broader sense.
In the first week of the adult human sexuality class, we focus on meeting the others in the class and establishing a level of respect and expectations for the class.
First, the group will create a list of rights and responsibilities. We’ll start with a writing reflection of what participants think the rights and responsibilities should be. As needed the facilitators will prompt important rights/responsibilities that should be included on the list including: to be heard, to ask any questions, to not be put down, to pass, to not have assumptions made about you, to have your own feelings, to say hello and good-bye to group members, to be present and confidentiality. We will briefly discuss each right/responsibility. These rights/responsibilities will be posted in each session. The rights and responsibilities help establish safety and the tone of the sessions. They serve as a guideline so participants know what is expected.
We will also create a question box and name cards and then there will be an ice breaker activity so the group gets the chance to learn about each other. Then, there will be a discussion about what human sexuality is and discuss the group’s thoughts of human sexuality.
Lesson 1 Materials
Human Sexuality Newsletter Week 1
Adult Sexuality week 1 Lesson Plan
Lesson 1 Worksheet
|This is the session of Human Sexuality 101 was offered by The Autism Program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This group was designed for three high school/young adult girls and boys with ASD. The teens in this group were bright and engaging and have had a little formal exposure to sexuality concepts, but still struggle with the more nuanced facets. Many of these activities could be adapted for groups of various sizes and ability levels.
You can find all of our lesson plans for the high school human sexuality classes here.
Over the summer, I did a 8 week sexuality class with middle school students with autism (3 boys and 3 girls). I’ve posted each lesson from the curriculum, but I thought I’d link all the posts together so you could get to them in one place. For each session there is a lesson plan, parent letter, and power point slides. Some lessons also have worksheets. I’ve also commented about how the lessons went and some ideas for adaptation. Click on the links below to go to the posts and access the materials.
*We sent home a workbook with follow up/supplemental material during this lesson. The workbook is available on the post.
This summer, at TAP in Urbana-Champaign, we are doing an eight week human sexuality group for middle school students. We have three boys and three girls in our group who range in age throughout the middle school years (from starting 6th grade to finishing 8th grade). Check out the slides that accompany the lesson.
Our first week was a blast. You can check out the full curriculum here [Sex Ed week 1]. We used a worksheet to help the students come up with their own definition of human sexuality. I love the definition we came up with as a group, “Sometimes human sexuality topics make us feel uncomfortable, but it’s a part of life, specifically, part of our private life. Human sexuality is about how we feel about people like loving someone and liking someone, but sometimes two people’s feelings may not match with each other. Human sexuality has to do with emotions, the body, and relationships.”
We sent a letter home with parents that explained the activities with fairly significant detail, touched on next weeks activities, and provided additional resources. One of the important parts of this letter was suggestions for ways to incorporate these topics at home. This week, as it was mostly about introductions, the parent component focused on using the rights and responsibilities at home.
Anatomy and Reproduction were the topics for week 2. We started off the session with a game called “Parts and Post-it Notes” to talk about body parts with the participants. To play this game we had a giant piece of paper with the outline of a body on it. We gave the participants post-it notes to write down the body parts that they knew and asked them to place them on the outline of the body.
After this activity, the participants were told that for the rest of the class they would be focusing on body parts related to reproduction (another way to refer to sex organs or private parts). The participants were then directed to the next activity where they practiced saying terminology related to reproduction out loud and recording their responses to how saying the words made them feel.
When the participants finished the terminology activity, we spit them into two groups to start the fruit anatomical model of reproductive organs using fruit. The participants were shown a picture of the parts of the body and were giving tooth picks and flash cards to label the fruit parts and their functions. This activity was great for the participants to learn the vocabulary in a little abstract and safe way! For a more concrete example of reproduction, we used the “Miracle of Life” video to explain the process.
We ended this session by having the participants briefly summarize that they learned during the session.
For more information on anatomy view our Human Sexuality 101 Week 2- Anatomy, EXPLAINING ANATOMY, YOUTUBE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES: HEALTHCHANNEL, SEXPLANATIONS, AND CSPH, ADULT HUMAN SEXUALITY WEEK 2- ANTATOMY & REPRODUCTION posts
This Week’s Materials
Week 2 Lesson Plan
Week 2 Slides
This lesson plan revolved around teaching what body image means, understanding that people feel differently about their bodies, and that people change how they feel about their bodies over time. After doing several knowledge based activities, we moved to exploring how the students felt about their own bodies.
There was one theme that was really relevant for the student we were working with. She was really interested in her perception of self and others perception of her. In her self-portrait, she focused on the things that make her her; most of these were things you couldn’t see.
We also read body stories. Each had a picture of a body. Just seeing the images was really moving. We were planning mostly for girls, but I included a story that might be more appropriate for a male audience. The young woman chose to read the story about the women who was the most traditionally beautiful (not really a big surprise). This was a story about a woman with chronic illness. Serendipitously, the body story resonated concepts that this student was working through.
Body Stories (all female) from This is Who I Am by Rosanne Olson (her website is http://bodyimagebook.com)
Body Story (male)
During week 4, we focused on understanding crushes.
There were three activities for the participants this week:
What is a crush?
The participants first brainstormed things that a person with a crush might feel or think. Participants had different levels of understanding on what having a crush meant to them. The purpose of this activity was to help the participants to understand that crushes are a special set of thoughts and feelings about another person. We later discussed thoughts and ideas that the group may have that may be unsafe when it comes to having a crush.
How to deal with a crush?
We used three videos to help the participants to understand how to deal with a crush. The videos covered these topics: What if you like a friend, How to tell if a guy likes you, and How to get a guys attention. These videos give concrete ways to deal with a crush.
Turning someone down
We used a video about how to say no to deal with a variety of situations when it comes to turning someone down.
For more information and activities on crushes visit our Human Sexuality 101 Week 5- Crushes and Adult Human Sexuality Week 3- Crushes curriculum
This Week’s Material
Week 4 Powerpoint
Intimacy was the focus of week 5. This concept can be difficult to understand because it is very broad so this is how we talked about it in our class.
We talked about how intimacy can be divided into two parts: physical and emotional. Physical intimacy involves expressing ones feelings for another person through a physical manner (holding hands, hugging, kissing, and sexual activity). While emotional intimacy involves the feelings towards another person. It is based on how comfortable you are with someone and how much you can share with them. It is important to understand that there are levels to intimacy and that it is not necessarily just for two people in a dating relationship.
For this week’s activities, we opened up with a discussion on the numerous ways to have intimacy with someone. During group time, our plan was for participants to create a “Intimacy Chart”.
We provided them with pictures displaying different types of intimacy ( holding hands, hugging, etc.) and asked them to write down how each of the pictures made them feel. After that we arranged the picture in order to what we felt would be the natural progression of relationships. To finish off the activity we categorized each picture based on whom we are comfortable doing those actions with. The main purpose of the “Intimacy Chart” is to help the participants to visualize the different types of intimacy.
Although this was the plan, one of our students had a different idea of how she should do this activity. She asked for a folder and then decorated it with her boyfriends name. She then put the different acts of intimacy she felt comfortable with in the folder. At first, she didn’t want to share which behaviors she had chosen, but then she decided that she would share. What a great spontaneous adaption!
For more information on intimacy visit our Intimacy Activities and Adult Human Sexuality Week 6- Physical Intimacy and Human Sexual Response
This Week’s Material
Parent Letter Week 5
Here are videos that were developed for 10 – 17 year olds on the autism spectrum regarding puberty & other sexuality topics. They are clear, concrete, and move through the material slowly (this is one of the biggest problems with videos for a general audience- they go too fast!)
My favorite thing about the videos is that the male instructor is an individual with autism.
All of the videos can be found on www.coultervideo.com, a website that sells videos by Dan & Julie Coulter. Dan & Julie are parents of a son with ASD who started creating educational videos on their vacation and now do it full time.
Videos that may be useful:
You’re probably sick of seeing my fruity anatomical models, but I just can’t help myself from teaching them- at least I gave you a different picture. I love that activity. One of the participants in the class has trained to be an EMT and is now working on becoming an nurses assistant so he was able to explain the reproductive processes and anatomy. On the other hand, other folks had a hard time looking at pictures of the developing fetus and seeing progression from cells to a more complex organism. I think there just wasn’t enough context and exposure to those images. All the participants in our class had this piece of sex ed before so they knew all the basic parts of anatomy. We got into a nice discussion about reproductive anatomy and why it’s private and why it’s taboo.
When talking about reproduction, be careful not to limit conception to just intercourse (although this is critical information too). In our activity we framed sperm entering the vagina as through intercourse or a medical procedure. You could go into more depth and talk about different fertility options. Why? First, intercourse is not the only birth story and specifically it’s less likely to be the birth story for children with gay or lesbian parents. I think it’s important not to assume that heterosexuality is the norm. Second, many individuals have difficulty conceiving and need fertility support. I think it’s important not to assume fertility is the norm.
For the supplemental materials my co-facilitator and I got into an interesting situation. The book she wanted to use was only available in the children’s section at the public library. It was a really nice resource, but we were concerned about sending adults to the children’s section. All the reproduction books with pictures were in the children’s not fiction section. In the end, we decided to include it, but put a warning where it was located. I’m not sure this was the best choice, but that’s what we went with at the time. We also encouraged participants to watch “Life’s Greatest Miracle”. This is a great teaching tool, and they could stream it for free!
I’ve attached the lesson plan and supplemental materials below.
The main activity this week was a series of worksheets designed around walking participants through the steps of having a crush: places to meet someone, why you notice someone, deciding to talk to them or not, signs of being interested, approaching someone, asking out on a date, and saying “No”. Probably the most difficult question on the worksheets was, “why do you notice this person?” Many of the participants focused on things the would like if they got to know someone. It took several prompts, but they were able to start thinking about the things they notice about others, the things that draw their attention. When we got to different ways to approach someone there were many questions on bar etiquette. We talked about buying drinks for others, when it’s expected to approach people and when it’s not, and the difference between the bar sitting area and table sitting area. We didn’t get to our final activity, but were were going to sequence the road map with pictures of couples at different stages. We have a little bit of a time management problem because there’s no clock in the room. It’s the little things!
We gave them two additional resources this week. First we sent them to a website on how to build self confidence. We also suggested the book, What Men With Asperger Syndrome Want to Know About Women, Dating and Relationships by Maxine Aston.
Get all the materials for this weeks lesson