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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Post: Ben Wilshire

Aspie's and sexuality

I believe that the subject of sexuality and Asperger’s needs to be discussed more and in an open way. The purpose of this post is to help people understand the topic a little more and discuss some things that can be done to improve outcomes in regards to relationship understanding for Aspies.

I would like to firstly point out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as it is a good framework to consider when looking at improving quality of life. As seen in the drawing below, arguably sex is one of the most important motivators with sexual intimacy and friendship being on the third most important level. Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met.
The difficulties that Aspies face vary from individual to individual, however there are a lot of commonalities. Research into the sexual understanding of Aspies is in its infancy however studies (and my personal experiences and of other Aspies) suggest that Aspies are as interested sex (and intimate relationships) as anyone else, but many struggle with the myriad of complex skills required to successfully negotiate intimate relationships. In my research into the subject I have also noticed that although some Aspies (like myself) don’t have major sensory issues, others do which can make intimacy a challenge. AS will also affect communication, both verbal and nonverbal, social interaction and empathic thought. It can also cause obsessive interests, need for structure and routine, motor clumsiness

People with Asperger syndrome can sometimes appear to have an ‘inappropriate’, ‘immature’ or ‘delayed’ understanding of sexual codes of conduct. This can sometimes result in sexually inappropriate behaviour. For example, a 20-year-old with Asperger syndrome may display behaviours which befit a teenager.

Even individuals who are high achieving and academically or vocationally successful can have trouble negotiating the ‘hidden rules’ of courtship. 

As Dr Tony Attwood says in the new book published by JKP “Been There, Done That, Try This!” “Their (Aspies) sources of information on sexuality may not be peers or personal experiences, but more likely the media, literature and possibly pornography.” This is why specific education needs to be provided to Aspies as more in-depth education will fill in the gaps that cause by lack of intuition. Specific sexual education is also important to help avoid such issues as Aspies getting into trouble with the law by acting inappropriately (such as accessing illegal pornography or stalking potential partners) and becoming victims of sexual assault because they got taken advantage of and in some cases this is caused (through no fault of their own) by not knowing what the intentions of their partner are. searching for a suitable educational programmes that relate to AS and sexuality I found one include many relevant topics and to be in a group structure which will also help participants to improve on their social skills. The program can be found in full in the book “Asperger’s Syndrome and Sexuality From Adolescence Through Adulthood” By Isabelle Henault. As far as I know this educational programme is the only programme to be developed and tested and is specifically to meet the needs of people with AS.  The course includes 12 workshops, each with its own topic. Although previously unpublished, the programme has been empirically validated and tested in practice with four groups. The results from these trials are also found in the book.

Through more exposure of this issue I believe that more organisations will realise that there is a need for specific education programs for Aspies and will look into the issue of sexuality more and develop and refine programs to suit this need for education. Also Aspies will realise there are resources out there to help them recognise their deficits and how to work around them.

If you have any comments/questions on this article or there is anything that you would like me to cover in a future blog post (as I want to write an article more in depth in the future regarding AS and sexuality) please leave a comment.

For anyone interested in reading about the perspective of a male Aspie (written in first person) using internet dating successfully please see Garry Burge's post here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Novel Featuring a Non-Verbal Autistic Character: The Place to Say Goodbye

My best friend's son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. I remember the night she called -- I was eight weeks pregnant with my first child, and it was my third wedding anniversary. I had gone to bed early because I could barely keep my eyes open and I had spent the day throwing up.  But then the phone had rung, and it was my friend.

"Happy Anniversary!" she said brightly, but then I heard the tears behind her words. "G was diagnosed with autism today."

I hadn't known that A and her husband had been seeing doctors for any issues, though I had suspected for about the last year that something wasn't right.  At G's second birthday party the month before, he had seemed much younger than 2, had thrown a fit, had flipped out while the candle was lit and during the singing of Happy Birthday, was still not talking at all.  I had not been around a lot of children, and for all I knew, these things could be normal, but somehow, I knew something was wrong. Still, A and her husband, M, had never told us they were seeking out help.

I didn't know what to say but I promised to come visit A at work the next day.  I had no idea how she would manage going to work with the newness -- the freshness -- of the diagnosis.  But the next day I met her there, and she took a break and we sat in the waning fall sunlight while she explained how G had been diagnosed. How overwhelmed she felt. How crazy this all was.

G. is 23 now. He lives in a group home and goes to a program on weekdays.  He has never said a word, doesn't use any form of communication. He understands what we say though, and he is sweet and gentle. He can put together a complex jigsaw puzzle amazingly well and he snuggles with his mom.  He also grunts, grinds his teeth, and squeezes his hands together in frustration. He has obsessive behaviors, like wanting to sit on the ground before he gets in a car and turning lights on and off repeatedly.

I recently published my third novel, The Place to Say Goodbye, about a 32 year old man, Carson, with the kind of autism G has -- nonverbal.  Because we don't know what nonverbal autistic people think or feel, I wanted to give them a voice, so only the reader is privy to Carson's thoughts.  The novel also features Carson's caretakers -- his identical twin 25 year old sisters who don't know what he thinks or how he feels.

Autistic people and their families need a voice -- and I hope this novel helps give them one. Here is the link to purchase the book:

Kindle Edition:
Judy Mollen Walters is the author of the novels, The Place to Say Goodbye (2015), as well as The Opposite of Normal (2014) and Child of Mine (2013). She can be reached at

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dawn Marcotte: Resources to Help Autistic Students Choose the Right College

Finding the right college is key to successfully graduating and lists like the Top 10 Colleges for Autistic Students can only go so far. 

Here are a few other resources to check before making any decisions.

ASAN's Navigating College Handbook
The Navigating College Handbook was published in 2011. This book was written by autistic students, for autistic students and its point of view is unique. The book is available for free at their website, Navigating College The ebook contains information on getting academic accommodations, housing tips, health and safety, advocacy and social life. 

Online Websites
Searching for college is a big business online. There are many websites with information about colleges across the country. Unfortunately few of them include any information on the support services for autistic students. is a web site that specifically targets autistic students. The site has a listing of colleges, universities and post-secondary programs designed for autistic students. However the programs they list are submitted to them for inclusion on the list and the list is far from complete. If students have a specific school in mind, checking this site to see what programs are available is a good first step. However if the school is not listed here, it doesn't mean they don't have support programs available. 

Another website to check is SpectrumU ( This site lists many colleges in alphabetical order or by type of university. However this is in a list format, not a searchable database. The site does have some excellent information on searching for colleges with appropriate services.

Print Resources
Consumer Reports has done a review of online and print resources for college guides and comparisons. While none of the online resources they recommend address services for autistic students several of the print books do.

The College Handbook by the College Board, Guide to Colleges by Fiske and Profiles of American colleges by Barron's are all top resources and all include information on special services. College Handbook is actually the number one recommended book resource as it includes information on costs, educational quality, environment and has the largest number of schools included in the guide at 3,800. This may be a good first look to understand what is available and learn the vocabulary that goes with a school search.

Online Forums
There are also several forums where students and parents can go to learn more about college and post-secondary life from people who are living it. 

·         Aspie Central (
·         Wrong Planet (
·         College Confidential (
These forums are all active and provide valuable information and discussions on college and other post-secondary options.

Other Options
Not every autistic student is going to attend a college with support services. However there are independent programs who will provide needed support at the college or university of choice. These programs are fee based and vary widely in cost and services. 

Here are a few examples:
·         AHEADD -
·         College Internship Program -
·         College Living Experience -
·         College Steps Program -
·         Student Curriculum on Resilient Education -
Autistic students can be successful in college and beyond with the right supports in place. 

 Dawn Marcotte is the CEO of, a website designed to help teens and young adults on the spectrum live to their highest potential.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Who Died and Made You Dr. Spock? A guest post from Dawn Marcotte

Our guest post is by Dawn Marcotte. who is the CEO of, a website designed to help teens and young adults on the spectrum live to their highest potential.

Disclaimer: For the Star Trek fans out there this article isn't really going to talk about Mr. Spock -Dr. Spock was a famous child specialist in the 60's.

I saw her laying on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs about something. As a young single woman I just went to the next aisle and tried to ignore it, vowing that my children would never do that.   Why doesn't mom just pick her up and take her to the car - I'm sure they could come back another time.  I wasn't raised that way - I would have gotten spanked for sure if I put up such a fuss in public, or at home for that matter. I could tell by the looks of the other adults that I wasn't the only one who was thinking that.

Fast forward 15 years - God has a sense of humor
Now I am the mother with the child pitching a fit on the floor.
Now I understand that trying to pick her up will just make it worse. All I can do is ride it out and do my best to calm her quickly. This is the first chance I have had in a week to get to the grocery store and if we don't have the right foods she won't eat, so we have to get it done now.
I saw the looks from the other adults in the store and I know what they are thinking - then it hit me:
Who died and made you Dr. Spock? What makes you think I am a bad parent?
In the United States justice system we are supposed to assume innocence until proven guilty - can't we apply that to parenting too?

 I think that most parents love their children and we want to do the right things for them.
We want to teach them to be patient, kind, generous, strong, self- reliant, smart, honest etc.
If we assume that all parents want their kids to grow up to be good people, why do we assume that when a child is misbehaving it is the parents fault. That somehow the parent has missed a vital step in raising that child and they need to learn to 'parent' better. Like they forgot to feed them or tell them that screaming in the middle of a store is not acceptable behavior.

 We don't think that way about ourselves do we?  I know I don't. I happen to think I am a pretty good parent. I have worked hard to help my girls grow up to be intelligent, articulate, strong women who don't just accept what the world tells them. (Unless of course it is me and then they just have to do it because I'm the Mom.)  I am not perfect and I have made my share of mistakes along the way, but overall I have tried really hard and I think I have been at least partially successful. At least they are still talking to me and aren't making plans to get AWAY as soon as they can.

Children are actually people too. Yes they have limited life experience, but that doesn't make their emotions any less real. It doesn't make their needs any less important.
It is time to give each other a break. Real life isn't television where Dad is too incompetent to properly care for his own children and moms are too overwhelmed to even know what their children are doing. Neither is it Sesame Street where every adult knows exactly what to do in any given situation. Reality lies somewhere in between.

What if we assumed that the parent in any given situation is doing the best they can?  How would that change our reaction?

Would we perhaps he a bit kinder and offer some assistance?  Even just a smile and a nod of recognition that we know they are trying their best.

Would that small change in our behavior help other adults to make the same change? How would that change the world?

I think we need to start fresh with each other as parents and adults. Starting today I am going to try very hard to be more supportive of other parents, especially when they are having a hard time.
What do you think about how adults and parents treat each other?

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