Investigating the challenges of teaching sex education to autistic learners: a qualitative exploration of teachers’ experiences

Daisy Bloor, Carrie Ballantyne, Karri Gillespie-Smith, Claire Wilson, Gillian Hendry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Sex education is essential as it equips individuals with the knowledge to live independent and safe sex lives. However, in the United Kingdom, sex education is not particularly accessible for autistic learners which may lead to a lack of knowledge around appropriate sexual behaviours. Aims: The current study focusses on the challenges of teaching sex education to autistic learners. Methods and procedures: The data was produced through one-to-one interviews with thirteen educational practitioners that have experienced delivering sex education to autistic learners. Outcomes and results: Reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to interpret the data, producing themes of (1) Pedagogical Restrictions, and (2) Sexual Impulses. Conclusions and implications: These findings demonstrated that the main challenges of teaching sex education to autistic learners pertained to Pedagogical Restrictions in the classroom, and learners’ own sexual impulses. These findings are a positive step towards understanding how to adapt sex education lessons to make them more inclusive and accessible for learners with autism. This study contributes to developing understanding around how to support autistic learners, highlighting gaps in the current sex education curriculum for policy makers, and enabling those surrounding autistic individuals to best support them with body transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104344
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Volume131
Early online date28 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • autism
  • social skills
  • sex education
  • theory of mind
  • transition

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