Dove's Nest: Faith Communities Keeping Children & Youth Safe


Autism, Sexual Behavior and Safety 

1. Don’t assume sexual deviance at face value from individuals with autism. Individuals may exhibit fixations on objects or body parts that professionals have deemed not to be a sexual fetish, or they may have sensory issues that can lead to partial disrobing or adjusting private parts. However, these actions, especially in church settings, can still be inappropriate and alarming to others. These incidents should be taken seriously and may require professional assistance for the individual and education for the church community.

2. At the same time, don't write off or ignore sexual behavior as being related to ASD. Don't assume that because someone is autistic they aren't capable of sexual feelings, arousal, and actions (appropriate and not appropriate). They need the same boundaries other individuals need—perhaps more concrete boundaries and guidelines. Responses such as “This person has autism, so we aren’t too worried about this sexual behavior” are problematic, said Spence.

3. Fortunately, people on the spectrum often follow rules well. Professionals are using social stories and video modeling, which can help a lot in your church setting. Video modeling is a mode of teaching that uses video recording to provide a visual model of the targeted behavior or skill. Very concrete rules like "you cannot touch someone's hair that you don't know or without consent" or "you need to stand an arm’s length from someone while talking with them," sometimes with images to illustrate the rules, often work well for people with ASD. For the general population, these kinds of explicit rules can feel unnecessary or restrictive, but for many individuals with ASD, they can be freeing and effective.

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Dove's Nest's mission is to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities. "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children"  (Luke 18:16 NLT).