Queer on the Spectrum
About Queer on the Spectrum
My name is Jack (they/them) and I am a queer autistic sexuality educator. I have been working as a sexuality educator for the last four years. I primarily work with therapists but am open to working with other professions and parents/caregivers. I teach individuals how to support autistic individuals by providing consultations (one-on-one as well as group consultation), resources, curriculum, and educational workshops on the intersection of human sexuality and autism.
Due to education and training gaps, many therapists lack confidence and skill on the topic of human sexuality, which increases the likelihood of harm especially when working with certain populations. The autistic population is one such group for a multitude of reasons outlined below.
There is a significant need for therapists to be able to work with autistic individuals on issues related to romance and sexuality. In part this is due to difficulty with language- some autistics are nonverbal, some autistics experience selective mutism, and autistic burnout can manifest as a loss of language skills- and social struggles- difficulty navigating social interactions and difficulty with non-verbal communication- which are two core features of autism (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Rosa, 2017; Sasson et. al., 2017). In part this is due to autistics having a higher identification as LGBTQIA compared to the general population (George & Stokes, 2017). Research is still teasing apart the details and the whys but both current research and anecdotal information indicate that autistic individuals report greater diversity of gender identity and higher gender dysphoric traits then allistic individuals (George and Stokes, 2017). While there are some theories currently suggested, there are no definitive answers currently given for the higher rate of gender variance and LGBTQIA identity in autism. Queer individuals continue to experience erasure and marginalization in human sexuality classes and their educational needs are often unaddressed in human sexuality curriculum (Jennifer & Sarah, 2015; Jones, 2011; Strapagiel, 2019). Queer disabled individuals are even more likely to not receive adequate education and support (Brooks, 2014; Brown & McCann, 2018; Duke, 2011; Jones, 2011; Santinele Martino, 2017).
Along with the factors listed above, it is also important to address sensory issues-the majority of autistics struggle with sensory issues/sensory processing disorder (Balasco et. al., 2020; Biel & Peske, 2009, p. 17-18; Prizant & Fields-Meyer, 2019, p. 74-75)- and autistic burnout/ the pressure to mask (pass as culturally typical i.e. not autistic) (Kieran, 2018; Rosa, 2019) when working with the autistic population on the topic of human sexuality. Finally, autistic individuals experience higher rates of trauma in general and autistics have a higher likelihood to experience bullying, predation, sexual violence, and domestic violence compared to the general population (Brown-Lavoie et. al., 2014; Edelson, 2010; Fuld, 2018; Gravitz, 2018; Hoover, 2015; Weiss & Fardella, 2018). Nervous system dysregulation (sensory issues/autistic burnout) and unaddressed trauma impact the ability to form relationships and interact with others (Nagoski, 2015; Porges, 2011).
All the above means that autistics require therapists who can work with their unique challenges and dispositions (Fleming, 2015; Hancock et al., 2017; Hartmann et al., 2019; Sala et al., 2019; Sala et al., 2020).
However, currently, many therapists complete their graduate education with inadequate training in human sexuality (Burnes et al. 2017; Diambra et al. 2016; Sanabria, & Murray, Jr., 2018). and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) depiction of autism doesn’t adequately prepare therapists for working with autistics across the lifespan (Cooper et. al., 2018; May, 2018). Therapists are leaving school unprepared to deal with these issues, resulting in their struggle and lack of preparedness when working with autistic clients on the topic of human sexuality (Cooper et al., 2018; Mack, 2019; Opar, 2018). This educational dearth leaves therapists unprepared and under-resourced on how to offer support and education to autistic individuals, such as an autistic teen curious about dating or an autistic child who identifies as transgender. This lack of curriculum or training also leaves autistic individuals vulnerable to abuse in situations they are ill-equipped to navigate, creates an environment where autistic people are more likely to be in unsafe situations where they might be identified as violating consent or perpetrating sexual assault if no information about these topics is offered, and autistic individuals may experience overall lower life satisfaction (Opar, 2018; Urbano et al., 2013).
While autism and sex-positive advocates are trying to fill the gaps in education with trainings, classes, blogs and YouTube videos, it is not a complete, responsible, or a reliable solution to this issue. Mental health professionals, educators, and parents cannot and should not be expected to fully remedy their lack of training or education on human sexuality and/or autism with continuing education classes or with YouTube videos and personal blogs. Graduate schools need to incorporate education on both human sexuality and autism/neurodiversity that is interwoven throughout the program (not just one class) for all mental health professionals. Receiving targeted training and supervision from another person with cumulative experience in the same field as you is valuable as it provides both academic experience and lived on the job experience (Clifford & Green, 1996; Flores, 2019). Research indicates that therapists should, at minimum, learn the basics of human sexuality while in school from someone with cumulative experience and then supplement their graduate school education with information gleaned from online or with continuing education classes (AASECT, 2020; Burnes et al. 2017; Diambra et al. 2016; Sanabria, & Murray, Jr., 2018). A therapist does not need to serve all clients, but they should have some degree of training on human sexuality and autism/neurodiversity to minimize the likelihood of pathologizing healthy sexuality and causing harm (lower life satisfaction, increased suicidality, depression and other mental health concerns) (Burnes et al. 2017; Diambra et al. 2016; Sanabria, & Murray, Jr., 2018).
I have worked with therapists, medical professionals, and parents for the last four years providing needed information and support on autism, human sexuality, and the intersection of the two. I am currently in the process of getting certified through AASECT. If you would like more information on the workshops I offer or if you would like me to attend a panel or if you would like to arrange a private consultation don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you.
Overview of Consultation and Curriculum
Knowledge for Every Level
I offer one-on-one consultation as well as group consultation on the intersection of human sexuality and autism. Group consultation includes, but is not limited to, speaking to a class, sitting on panels, and participating in intergroup dialogues.
Consultation includes an extensive resource list.
I offer two stand alone classes adapted from the 5 part class series.
Stand alone class 1: Polyvagal theory, autism, and human sexuality.
Stand alone class 2: Sensory Processing Disorder, autistic burnout, and human sexuality.
More information on these two stand alone classes available here.
Autism and Human Sexuality: A 5 Part Class Series
I offer a 5 part class series on autism and human sexuality.
This class series is primarily for therapists but it is open to anyone (i.e. parents, educators, other professionals who work with autistic individuals etc.) who is interested in learning about autism, human sexuality, and the intersection of the two subjects. The series will include 5 classes as a set and an extensive resource list. More information on the 5 classes is available here.
Instead of piecemeal resource gathering, individuals can get a wide range of information in one place with guidance. This class series will be more focused on the “why” of behavior rather than behavior management/description. Course content can be adjusted based on participants prior knowledge and training. This class series is limited to 10 people. There is an option to do the class series one-on-one. The classes will be live and not prerecorded. If interested please contact email@example.com to set up a screening call (video or phone).