ASD and Sexuality

What’s this project about?

Researchers have demonstrated that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are interested in sex and engage in sexual behaviours. However, little is understood about sexual knowledge, perceptions, and experiences in ASDs. Knowledge and self-perceptions are important factors in the development of safe sexual practices and healthy relationships. Given the specific areas of deficits found in people with ASD (particularly social relationships and social-cognitive processing), they may miss or misunderstand important sexual knowledge gaining opportunities and misinterpret sexually related experiences. In this project, we examined a variety of factors related to sexuality and sexual experiences in young adults with high functioning ASD. The results of this study will provide us with an understanding of the factors contributing to knowledge, feelings of efficacy, risky sexual behaviours, and sexual victimization and perpetration in this population. Results of this study may also have important implications in the development of sexual safety training and socio-sexual curriculum development.

How did we go about doing this research?

We used standardized assessment measures and questionnaires, with 18-35 year old adults with high functioning ASD and a comparison sample of typically developing adults in the same age range. Participants with ASD were recruited from both Canada and the United States. We asked participants to fill out an online questionnaire that takes approximately 30-45 minutes, and provided those who completed the questionnaire with a $20 gift card.

Publications

Brown-Lavoie, S. M., Viecili, M. A., & Weiss, J. A. (2014). Sexual Knowledge and Victimization in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(9), 2185-2196.

Presentations, Public Appearances & Media

Brown-Lavoie, S.M., Viecili, M. A., & Weiss, J. A. (September 2, 2014). Research Summary: Sexual knowledge and victimization in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASD Mental Health Blog at York University.
To read the research summary, click here.

Viecili, M.A. (August 26, 2014). Radio interview with CHRY 105.5 FM.
To listen to the radio interview, click here.

McLean, S. (August 13, 2014). Adults with autism spectrum disorder at higher risk of being sexually victimized. YFile: York University's Daily News.
To read the YFile article, click here.

Viecili, M.A., Brown-Lavoie, S., & Steward, R. (October 31, 2013). ASD and Sexual Safety: From Research to Practical Implications. Half-day workshop provided to clinicians at York University.
To view the presentation from this workshop, click here.

Want to know more about this project?

If you have questions about this study feel free to contact Michelle Viecili by email at mviecili@yorku.ca, or by phone at (416) 736-2100 ext. 44032.