The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods is a comprehensive guide for people ages 9-16. This book covers the basics of menstruation and offers direct advice on what exactly to expect when you start your period. On top of this, it provides advice for everyone, not just the person menstruating. This book offers advice to the parents or caregivers, and alleviates some anxiety that people face when asking for help. This book was created in consultation with young people and doctors, so it’s a great resource.
The author of The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods, Robyn Steward, is Autistic herself, and made this book accessible and as inclusive as possible. This book is written in plain language, is straightforward, and suits the needs of Autistic individuals. The book offers step-by-step photos and instructions on how to change pads/tampons, and discusses alternatives to those. She also highlights what may be sensory issues for autistic people.
It’s extremely important for Autistic individuals (and those around them) to have a plan for handling menstruation. Someone’s first period can be a stressful, painful, and anxiety-inducing experience. Stress can be planned for an alleviated with careful education and preparation. This book is a fantastic resource and a great way to open up conversation about periods. For more information on planning for menstruation, check here: https://asdsexed.org/2012/06/08/menstruation-plan-26/
Mad Hatter Wellness is a company that creates comprehensive sexual health programs that teach and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Their curriculum Sexuality for All Abilities, contains activities and lessons that cover many different topics regarding sexuality and relationships. This is a holistic program that combines mindfulness techniques to address sexuality topics and provides a safe environment that ensures growth and learning. They offer a student and an adult option of the curriculum and can be purchased for $375 at the link below.
On top of this, Mad Hatter Wellness also sells other tools to help teach and practice topics that are covered in the curriculum. Their Boundaries Flip Book that form sentences regarding boundaries. It created discussion for healthy boundaries, as well as highlights what is okay and what isn’t, and when these behaviors are appropriate. On top of this, they also have a Family Discussion Guide, which offers activities, information, and discussion questions that will help families discuss healthy relationships and boundaries. In addition to these, they offer self-paced online courses, and more physical resources that can be used to implement the curriculum.
While many other household items are changing and being developed more accessibly, any industries regarding sex often stay avoided. Sex is such a taboo topic in general, even more so in the disabled community. There are many rumors and assumptions made about sexuality in the disabled community, the most prevalent myth is that people with any type of disabilities don’t have sex or experience sexual pleasure. However, that’s not true. Sex is a basic human function, and everyone, regardless of ability, is entitled to it. Many times, sex toys are extremely inaccessible for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Whether they’re not easy to physically work with, or they’re too stimulating, sex toys aren’t usually designed with all types of bodies in mind.
Come As You Are is an online business specializing in high-quality, ethically sourced, and affordable sex toys for all ability levels. This company has a wide variety of sex toys that are designed to work for people with all types of disabilities. When making their toys, they keep topics like mobility, privacy, fatigue, and many others in mind when creating sex toys. They are very transparent about how their toys are made, and they take suggestions about how to better improve their toys and make them more inclusive. They say, “It’s our experience that doesn’t come ‘naturally’ to everyone. We consider it our responsibility to do the hard work that makes it easier to explore.”
On top of this, their website has many articles and resources that talk about inclusivity in the sex industry. Their articles discuss choosing the right sex toy depending on your ability, information about condoms, and many other aspects of sexuality. They encourage embracing sexuality healthily, despite your skill level, and are pushing the sex industry in a more inclusive direction!
Open Future Learning is a company that offers a wide variety of online training for staff, or anyone else working with individuals with disabilities. They offer modules in abuse prevention, communication, advocacy, and many more topics. They have staff training modules, 30 minute programs, and an audio learning module. Membership can range from $112-$2263 per month, depending on the amount of active users. Linked below is Open Future’s Homepage.
Elevatus offers a variety trainings staff, direct support professionals, educators, self-advocates and parents to teach sexuality education to children and adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to their trainings, Elevatus has a sex education curriculum that can be purchased.
Here are examples of some of their trainings and the costs:
For Staff and Professionals – Developmental Disabilities and Sexuality 101 ($397)
For Parents/Guardians – Talking With Your Kids: Developmental Disability and Sexuality ($47)
In-service/live workshops and a 3-Day Certificate Training ($725) for anyone who wants to lead sexuality education classes with people with developmental disabilities.
I had the honor of presenting at the Champaign-Urbana Autism Conference where Temple Grandin was the key note speaker. So much of her message could be applied to human sexuality instruction.
Don’t yell “no!” Calmly tell people what they should be doing. (Dr. Grandin was talking about putting her finger in her water cup at the dinner table, but the same rule applies to masturbation).
Give lots and lots of examples of what falls within a category and it will eventually build up the concept you are working on. (Dr. Grandin was talking about understanding church steeples but the same strategy can be used to understand body parts).
Once you have a concept down use that concept to expand. (Dr. Grandin was talking about airplanes, but the same principle applies to privacy – one you get private body parts down you can use the concept of privacy to understand places and ideas).
And from Eustacia Cutler (Dr. Grandin’s mother), “The more we understand how autism [and sexuality] works the less anxious we become.” And sexuality added.
I focused on goals for sexuality instruction across the lifespan (exploring, understanding boundaries, coping with changes, and living your story) as well as modalities for instruction (socialization, formal lessons, behavior planning, and advocacy). You can find my presentation here.
Both Hape and Melissa & Doug have made anatomically correct body puzzles.
Hape sells boy and girl puzzles separately for around $20.00 each. The children are pre-pubescent and European American. The video below shows a child completing the puzzle. The toys are distributed by Hape but are actually made by a company called Beleduc out of Holland. Beleduc also has a great pregnant mother puzzle that is a little difficult to find.
Melissa & Doug make a magnetic human body play set that includes children of both genders for about 13.00. The children are early adolescents and European American.
Flirting can be a difficult subject to talk about because it always varies. This aid has some typical behaviors that are flirting, maybe flirting, and not flirting. It’s important to note that this is not a exhaustive list and that some of these behaviors are not guarantees of flirty or not flirty behavior, but it is a great place to start the conversation. This activity can be used to steer a conversation about how and when flirting occurs, and the fluidity of these behaviors.