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A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Parent-Focused Sexuality Education Program for Autistic Youth

Principal Investigator(s):

Lindsey DeVries, Ph.D.

Grant Type:

Applied Research

Funding:

40,000


Organization:

University of Colorado Denver

Year Awarded:

2023

Status:

In Progress


Topics:

Families; Health and Sensory Issues


Abstract

Interventions that provide parents of autistic youth support in navigating sexual health issues are scarce, despite widespread concerns from parents about their ability to address these topics. However, an initial pilot study of the Birds & Bees program, a novel sexual health education group intervention for parents of autistic youth, has shown promising evidence (DeVries et al., 2023). The proposed study aims to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility, and clinically meaningful effects of the Birds & Bees program compared to a widely available sexual health resource guide for caregivers of autistic youth. Parent participants (n=40) will be randomly assigned to receive the Birds & Bees program or the guide. It will be the first direct comparison of sexual health curricula for autistic youth and their families. Participants will be assessed on parent knowledge, confidence in discussing issues related to sexuality with their child, and frequency of communication about target topics. Children of participants will complete a measure to assess frequency and comfort in communicating about sexual health topics with their parents, making this the first study to assess the indirect impact of a parent-mediated sexual health intervention. Hypothesized outcomes include greater parent knowledge, confidence, and communication about sexuality and relationship topics for the Birds & Bees group compared to parents who receive the guide.