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Sex Ed for Self-Advocates

Welcome to Sex Ed for Self-Advocates

This guide is a sexuality and sex education resource written specifically for autistic people age 15 and up. Autistic people sometimes don’t have the chance to learn about sexuality and sex in ways that work for them, so OAR created this guide as a starting point to change that.

In each of the nine sections of the guide, self-advocates will be able to read articles and watch brief videos before testing their knowledge about a given topic and practicing new skills.

There’s a lot to learn about these topics – more than we could fit in just this guide. You can use this information as a starting point for learning more about relationships and sexuality, keeping in mind that learning about sexuality and relationships is a lifelong process

You don’t need to read this whole guide in one sitting. You may want to read one section a few times, or you may want to read one section every few weeks.

  • You can use the sections in the guide in any order that is helpful to you. Some people may choose to work straight through, section by section; others may find one section that they currently need to know about and read only that for the time being.
  • The nine modules in the guide were written in order. Each module builds off knowledge from the sections before. For example, before you learn about Dating, you might first need to know about Healthy Relationships.
  • Some of the topics might be brand-new to you, while you may already know a lot about others. If something in a later module is difficult to understand, it may be helpful to go to previous modules to build more knowledge.
  • You may not need to read all the information in this guide. If you don’t want to learn about some of the topics yet, that’s okay.
  • This guide consists of nine modules. Each one explains the basics of a topic in sexuality education. The modules can all be accessed from the homepage.
  • Each module is broken down into 10-15 smaller sections. There is a side bar on each module, so you can navigate through the sections you want to see. You can also use the “next” or “previous” buttons at the bottom of each section to move from page to page.
  • After you have read a section, a few questions are provided to let you check if you understand the more important concepts from the module.
  • In addition to the information on this website, a lot of resources are linked in the text and listed in the Sex Ed Additional Resources section. We have found those resources helpful while creating the guide, and we think they can help you learn more too.
  • There are not specific “rules” for most topics related to sexuality and relationships, and if there are rules, there may be specific exceptions. This can make it hard or frustrating to learn about these things. This guide explains general information and guidelines, but your own experiences may be different trust that your experience is valid and use this information to build your understanding further.
  • Because each person’s situation can be different, you should find a trusted adult to talk with if you have specific questions or concerns. This could be a family member, mentor, therapist, or some other person with whom you feel comfortable sharing personal information.
  • Reading through this guide can teach you a lot, but it will not make you an expert on relationships or sexuality. These topics are complicated, and learning about them is a lifelong process.
  • You deserve to have to have happy, healthy relationships and to be able to express your sexuality in ways that work for you. This guide can be a helpful tool as you work toward those goals.

What do you want to learn about?

Public Versus

In this section, we will discuss the difference between public, semi-public, semi-private, and private places and what conversations, personal information, and behaviors are appropriate in each type of place.

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Puberty and
the Body

In this section, we will explain what puberty is, describe related body parts, and discuss how bodies and brains change during puberty through hormonal changes, and how the reproductive system works.

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In this section, we will discuss various types of relationships, the differences between appropriate and inappropriate relationships, and how to recognize healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.

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All About

In this section, you will learn about boundaries, what “consent” is, how to know if someone is able to consent, and how to say “no” or respond to “no.”

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In this section, we will discuss crushes, flirting, asking people on dates, going on dates, being in a relationship, and ending a relationship.

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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In this section, we will explain sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, LGBTQ resources, coming out, and homophobia and transphobia.

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Am I

In this section, you will learn to recognize what your personal values are about sex, how they are shaped, and how to determine whether you are ready to have sex for the first time.

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In this section, we will discuss the basics of what sex is, why and when people have sex, how people talk about sex, and how to communicate sexual and autism-specific needs with partners.

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Online Relationships and Safety

In this section, you will learn about what information is safe to share online and how to manage it, online dating and friendships, and how to deal with negative interactions.

Learn More


Sex Ed. Guide for Self-Advocates would have not been possible without the many voices that contributed and provided feedback throughout the project.

OAR offers special thanks to the content experts who contributed their writing to this resource, including Jessica Penwell Barnett, Ph.D. (Sexual Activity section), Laura Graham Holmes, Ph.D. (Online Relationships and Safety section), Katherine McLaughlin, M.Ed. CSE (Puberty section), Robin Moyher, Ph.D. (Healthy Relationships and Consent sections), John Strang, Ph.D. (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity section), and Jiaqi Zhou and Joanne Davila, Ph.D. (Dating section).

Further thanks goes to Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D., and Amy Gravino, M.A., for their consultation on the resource and work in creating the videos appearing throughout the site. We also thank Brittney Brundage for her original illustrations for the resource, Amy Gahran for the use of the relationship escalator, and Chrissy M. Etienne for use of language in the crushes section.

OAR also thanks Cristina James, Melissa Keyes DiGioia, CSE, and Monique N. Colclough, Ph.D., for their time and efforts in reviewing the guide prior to publication.

Finally, OAR wishes to thank its project team:

  • Keygan Miller, M.Ed., and OAR Intern, who contributed to writing, creating graphics, editing, and uploading the content to the site. Additionally, Summer and Fall 2018 interns Lindsey Siff, Alyssa Grzesiak, and Emma Lacombe worked to design the site, locate graphics, and upload content.
  • Saman Kamgar-Parsi, OAR Senior Programs Associate and project lead, who wrote, edited, and collected content, coordinated interns, and ensured the site’s content was loaded and complete before being launched.
  • Kimberly Ha, OAR’s Director of Research and Programs, who wrote, edited, and provided feedback on content and throughout the project to ensure its successful completion.
  • Sophie Thurschwell, OAR Intern, who narrated and helped edit the audio version of the guide.
  • Corinne Gambacurta, OAR Intern, who edited the audio version of the guide and assisted with uploading content to the site.
  • Margaret Gorman, OAR’s Programs and Outreach Associate, who assisted with reviewing and uploading content for the audio guide.

Disclaimer: Information found on OAR’s Sex Ed. for Self-Advocates website, related videos, resources, and links are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Users of the site should consult with a physician or other health care provider to discuss specific concerns if they require further information or clarity.

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