Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anything But SEX!

I don’t like to talk about my son and sex. Some how in my brain I connected sexual issues with Nicky being grown up, which always seemed so far in the future. So I closed the door and avoided going there. I did a good job for years, but it seems that I can't ignore it anymore as the messages hit me daily. From the young man at the restaurant last week to the conversations last week with therapists, the message that surrounds me is "Nicky Is Growing up". Maybe it's because Nicky leaves the safe environment of his elementary school this year to begin middle school and I know the next phase, is now.

I remember when he was only 4 and I was sitting in a therapy waiting room - for social skills class - when a young man with ASD (about 14 years old) began opening magazines and pointing at the models breasts and screaming “boobs, boobs, tits” as he loudly laughed and jumped around the room. I froze, with my eyes like saucers praying that this would not be my path. His mom began speaking to another mom and they talked about how their kids had developed sexual obsessions. I think in that moment I said to myself “oh no, I’m not going there, anywhere but there!" and I took the conversation about sex and my son off the table.

A few years ago a friend told me that her 11 year old son with ASD had been sexually molested by a 14 year old boy with ASD. It was clear to me that she was traumatized by what had happened and was clutching to sanity as she tried to determine what to do next. How would she protect him in the future? How would she tell the other boys parents, who had recently adopted this boy? How would she talk to her son? How would she get help for her son? She did get him help and she was brave enough to get her entire family help. Later she told me about the wonderful sex education/safety classes she attended and recommended that I check them out.

I listened and I told her how great it was, but I knew I wasn’t ready, to face this topic head on. I just kept praying that I would not have to go there, at the same time I was thinking OMG how do I keep my son safe. Don’t we have enough challenges, now I have to be reminded of one more way our kids are vulnerable and cannot protect themselves.

Seems I can run, but I can't hide. This week I heard three stories about our kids and sex.

Story 1 One therapist said “There is a little girl with MR at school and she dress’s like Britney Spears. She is cute, but she looks provocative and she is a target for the boys and men, she can’t defend herself. I am afraid for her. I wish I could talk to her parents”

Story 2 A therapist who works at a middle school said “One of the girls in my special day class at school has a boy friend they both have serious developmental disabilities and I think they are having sex. I asked the mom about birth control and she does not think it is right for her daughter. She thinks their relationship is cute she is happy her daughter has someone. What about the baby they might create that these kids can’t care for?”

Story 3 A different therapist reported. A dad of a boy with ASD asked me about his son. He said that his son had begun masturbating and he just well, couldn't get the job done. He didn’t know what to do. So he wanted to know if he should teach him to finish the job? The therapist said “NO” would you teach your typical son that?

So, I get it. We are all struggling to figure this out. We are all doing the best we can to cling on to whatever version of reality that helps us get through the days. But right now I'm hearing that I can’t run forever. Yes, it's tough because I'm a single mom and I think this is a job for a dad. Yes, it's natural for this to be that “private” stuff our children work out as they become independent adults and I don't know if I can handle this unnatural part of parenting a child who is also a young man. The caregiver role is clearly defined for our small children, but not so clearly defined for children adults with developmental disabilities who only partially grow up, who we may parent forever. It is unnatural and awkward for me. Nonetheless it seems I will have to find the courage to get past my discomfort and get involved. Wish me luck.


  1. This was a very courageous post, Donna. Sex and encounters with the law (police, usually) are two hot-button topics for us ASD moms. Both are linked and can lead our children to being branded misfits, outlaws and criminals because they do not understand or follow the rules. As much as we can do to prepare them, unless the scenario we use in our teachings exactly matches the real-life scenario down to the last detail, this population may not be able to generalize the lesson learned to the real life challenge. How can we do this? How can we trust that our children will be safe and that other children will be safe from them? Does anyone have the answers we need as mothers, as a society?

  2. so interesting because i am facing some of this w/kids who are not on the spectrum...i have just learned my oldest (who just turned 18 so i've gotten off pretty easy) has recently become sexually active....we had one of the best talks we've had in years...but it's a different story for you...god, it is all so fraught! no answers, of course, but i will ask around to see how others have dealt...we all worry about protecting our kids physically, emotionally...what a ride this motherhood is...D, you have handled this with such grace, strenght and wisdom...i bow to you