INSAR Policy Brief Promoting wellbeing in autistic youth and adults: A positive focus on sexuality and gender diversity
dr. J. Dewinter, prof. dr. E.P.M. Brouwers
Sexuality is part of children and adolescents’ development and an important part of live. Studies conducted over the past 40 years revealed that autistic adolescents and adults too often lack tailored and comprehensive sexuality education and accessible information. In addition, attention to sexuality in healthcare remains limited. Also, more autistic adults identify as LGBTIQ+ or enjoy non-heteronormative sexuality or intimate relationships and therefore may face additional marginalization and stress, impacting their mental health. Until now, recommendations for supporting sexual health and wellbeing in autistic individuals are lacking. Objectives: Using a community based participatory approach, this project aimed to develop consensus recommendations for education, clinical practice, research, and policy to promote sexual wellbeing, with attention to the needs of sexual and gender diverse individuals, and make them available to a broad audience. Methods: The project was initiated and conducted by a core group (3 autistic, 3 non-autistic; researchers, clinicians and self-advocates) in close collaboration with an international group of 21 leading autistic and non-autistic experts in the Veld of autism, sexuality and gender diversity with a background in research, clinical practice, and self- and parent advocacy. In a Vrst online expert meeting in May 2022, the experts provided input to create a set of recommendations, through the Nominal Group Technique. In a second phase, a call was put to autism communities across the world to complete an online survey, to rate the initial 11 policy recommendations and provide feedback. Survey results and their implications were discussed in a second online expert meeting in August 2022.