Autism on Campus: Sexual Exploration

Sex (Photo credit: danielito311)
"Did you fool around in college?" the parent asked.

"I suppose. I missed classes once or twice. And I liked to go to the beach."

"No, I meant… fool around with girls."

Parents stumble into this question more ways than I could have anticipated when I started to write and speak about autism and education.

No answer I can offer based on personal experience can capture what another college student might experience. Every student is different. I entered college as an honors student, with all the "geekiness" that implies. I was also socially awkward in general, as readers of this blog can appreciate. During college, I lived in a special residence hall with faculty members living among students as mentors. It was not a "normal" experience, I recognize.

Some gifted students, some autistic students, are charming and will have active social lives. That is likely to include normal sexual experiences — and high school probably already included some of those experiences.

Other students are content to be focused on work and study. They might have a few sexual experiences, maybe short of intercourse and maybe not. There's no way to predict these things.

My answer won't help. It's really that simple. Did I do "things" with the young women I met and dated? This blog is probably not the best place for a checklist. Yes, "things" happen in college. What things happen vary by person.

Because you cannot predict what your student will experience, that's every reason to have frank, open discussions about sexuality and relationships. These are not synonymous, either. Sexual contact happens without deep relationships, especially on college campuses. Kissing, petting, touching, et cetera, happen. So have "the talk" as it relates to the college environment.

Parents, you also have to trust that college resident assistants / advisors (RAs) will talk to young freshmen about some of these issues. Colleges today do all they can to promote safe environments, including sex education outreach.

In the book on relationships and sexuality that I am preparing with a colleague, we will offer more explicit anecdotes and details about what a student might expect, but the key remains open dialogue with parents, educators, and support specialists.
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  1. Social life is as important as studying.
    It is good to achieve a balance between both aspects of life


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