Comparing SRE in Two Formats for Adolescents with ASD

Principal Investigator(s):
Xihan Yang
Grant Type:
Graduate Research
Tufts University
Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Year Awarded:
Education and School Aged Children; Social and Communication Skills


Sexuality and relationship education (SRE) programming plays an important role in development. As adolescents transition to adult bodies and adult relationships, topics such as self-care, puberty, contraception, and disease prevention offer critical information to help navigate new experiences. For individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, SRE is oftentimes inaccessible. The lack of specific information and tailored teaching approaches widens the gap between the SRE that autistic individuals need and that which they are currently receiving (George & Stokes, 2018). There are some emerging models of SRE programming for autistic individuals (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). We know from the study of sexuality in ASD and a survey of autistic adults currently being conducted in our research lab that beyond the biological components of sexuality, the social aspects and identityrelated topics (such as gender identity) are under addressed areas (Crehan, Unpublished data). One curriculum addresses the breadth and scope of information so desperately needed; the Tackling Teenage Training program. This 18-week curriculum covers healthy relationships, reproduction, and development, as well as identity and social skills relating to romantic relationships for autistic adolescents. Currently structured as an individual intervention, we propose to adapt this program to a group format to enable quicker dissemination of this much-needed programming.

The aim of this study is to examine how the structure of the Tackling Teenage Training sexual education curriculum impacts satisfaction and outcomes in individual and group formats. This program demonstrated potential in individual sessions but has yet to be studied in groups. SRE programs are in high demand for autistic teenagers and a group format would enable more individuals to access this programming than a one-on-one model. We hypothesize that, in both groups, individuals with ASD will report similar satisfaction scores with modules which are tailored to their areas of interest and learning styles.

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