Opinions and Attitudes of Parents and Students for Sexual Development, Sexual Behavior and Gender Identity of Persons with Autism in the Republic of Macedonia

By Mladenovska, Bisera; Trajkovski, Vladimir | The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Opinions and Attitudes of Parents and Students for Sexual Development, Sexual Behavior and Gender Identity of Persons with Autism in the Republic of Macedonia


Mladenovska, Bisera, Trajkovski, Vladimir, The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation


Abstract

Persons with autism can experience severe issues during the puberty and adolescence resulting from the changes that occur in their body. People with autism are sexual beings. They have sexual needs and desires as other people. Sexual development is part of the overall development of their personality.

The main objective of this research was to present sexual development, sexual behavior, and sexual identity among persons with autism. Furthermore, we determined the views and opinions of the parents and students, special educators and rehabilitators, about children with autism. Basic tasks of this research were: to determine whether persons with autism have a clear picture and concept of their sexuality, whether the parents discuss this topic with their children, whether and how persons with autism know what sex is, what is contraception, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or intimate parts of the body, whether they show some kind of sexual behavior, and whether the parents and students should be educated regarding the sexual development, behavior, and sexual identity of persons with autism.

The survey was conducted over a period of almost 3 months, which included 94 respondents.

Obtained data was collected, grouped, tabled, and processed with the standard statistical program Microsoft Office Excel 2003, applying χ2 tests and Fisher's Exact test. Statistical important difference was at the level of p<0.05. From the analysis and interpretation of the results, we can conclude that in Macedonian families and schools there is a very small extent or no existence of communication between the parents and professionals with persons with autism about sexual development, sexual behavior, and sexual identity. Persons with autism have very little or no general knowledge about sexuality.

Key words: persons with autism, sexuality, sexual behavior, sexual needs, sexual development, sexual education.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

For the normal teenager, adolescence is the period of development starting with puberty, and continuing until the individual has become capable of functioning independently in society, taking full responsibility for his or her own actions (1). From the beginning of puberty, the normal adolescent has to learn to deal with increasingly strong sexual impulses (2,3). The uniqueness of sexual behavior for persons with autism is conditional inter alia, by their inability to appropriately understand the biological changes that occur during the period of puberty and adolescence. During this period the definite sexual orientation has been determined. Girls begin to have growth spurts, develop breasts, pubic and underarm hair, and have vaginal discharge, and boys have: growth spurts, bigger hands and feet, increased muscle mass, deepened voice, facial and underarm hair, and more hair in the pubic area. Their penis and testicles also develop (2). Good hygiene by taking a shower or bath each day, washing your hair, underarms, and vaginal area is increasingly important. Many young people with autism find the physical changes associated with puberty distressing or confusing (3, 4).

The individual with autism spectrum disorder will need to be prepared for the changes that are normal during puberty. Many of the individuals have problems and difficulties because of these changes and therefore there is an even greater importance in the adequate preparation for physical and hormonal changes (4). Autism as a developmental disorder leads to serious problems in sexual development and behavior. Sexuality develops through social contacts and communication, through physical contact, through the game, and in that assimilates social rules and norms (5).

Persons with autism are like other people in terms of sexual development, and they have:

* The right to receive training in socialsexual behavior that will open doors for social contact with people in the community.

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