Teens on the Tenth: Sexual Behaviors

Categories: Resources

I know this is supposed to be Teens on the Tenth and I am aware it’s the 11th but I got ENGAGED this weekend so finishing proofreading this post took a back seat to drinking champagne and screeching on the phone with my friends! Still crazy excited and having a hard time focusing on getting back to reality and working today! Okay – personal side story over and onto the post: 

I have to admit. I have been dreading this topic. It is by far the most challenging issue that I have with preteens and teens. The big kahuna (no pun intended) – dealing with sexual behaviors and the joys (or horrors) of puberty. Just writing these first few lines gives me anxiety. It’s so awkward, difficult, and – let’s be honest – taboo. But it shouldn’t be. We need to have these conversations out in the open because this is something every single teacher and parent of teenagers will deal with. We desperately need more resources and awareness to deal with this challenging life transition.

If you have any brilliant insight, things that haven’t worked, funny stories, whatever, PLEASE share! 

Puberty issues range from appropriate touching, menstruation, masturbation, hygiene/grooming, etc. The most critical I face is teaching ‘no hands in pants.’  The hands in pants can usually lead to other ‘exploratory touching’ if you catch my drift. In my experience, you there are two major schools or thoughts: you can teach students to never engage in that behavior or you can teach them to do it in a private place. As far as the private place – you can teach that bathrooms are appropriate for privacy. I prefer the “not in school” approach which doesn’t always work but I attempt.

I use social stories and visuals as my main means of teaching about puberty and sexual changes. In the past when I had a girl student who began menstruating while during the years she was in my classroom, she used a daily social story. The story obviously contained some ‘private’ information so I made the social story on a powerpoint and recorded my voice reading it. That way she could listen to in private each day (using headphones). This was hugely successful and made her much more comfortable with this challenging time.

Some great advice a consultant gave me a few years ago regarding inappropriate touching – was that no reinforcer will ever be as powerful or as reinforcing as the touching. No amount of iPad or gummy candy can replace or override the naturally reinforcing stimulation. Ugh. So true – which makes it even more difficult. So basically you can’t out reinforce this but you teach discrimination skills – ie. you can do it here but not here.


breezyspecialedBrie from Breezy Special Ed gives her input on this topic. She teaches in a special education program in high school.

For male students who like to, um, “have fun” in class, I use phases like “hands on desk” or I have students show me their “nice hands” (hands folded). And for some students I send them to the bathroom often in order to avoid this happening in class and that has helped tremendously! (I know it’s kinda terrible to think about, but if they’re going to do it anyway, the bathroom is a much better place to be!) I have avoided discussing this in class but have sent social stories home so that the parents can discuss this with their young adult. Social stories that I have sent home include, shaving, getting your period, masturbation, and others. I use this book – Taking Care of Myself: A Hygiene, Puberty and Personal Curriculum for Young People with Autism – By Mary Wrobel
And this book – Attainment’s Health Growth and Development – https://www.attainmentcompany.com/health-growth-development – This one is written with picture symbols.
Both books have resources that I use in class and stories that I send home.

Also, in class I talk about private and public places and behaviors and the differences between those two.
This is a great Boardmaker share activity on sorting private and public behaviors – https://www.boardmakershare.com/Activity/1715654/Public-or-Private-Sort-Places


Social Stories:

Social stories are a great resource and I love Brie’s idea of sending social stories home for parents to use. It is our job as teachers to support parents and provide resources. Since this topic is traditionally a ‘parent lead’ issue – sending home social stories is an excellent intervention.

Download this “no hands in pants” social story for free:

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Allison from Miss Allison’s class also has a freebie “no hands in pants” social story on her blog. Check it out!

Kids Can Dream has a whole long list of links to a variety of social stories organized by type. Bookmark this page!

Here is a list of some book resources:

Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum: What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-teen and Teenage Years by Shana Nichols

Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up by Jacqui Bailey is a more detailed book about puberty, dating and sex.

Period.: A Girl’s Guide by JoAnn Loulan (2001 version)


Other resources:

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I like this Hand Out by amaze.org as a quick reference guide for parents. It’s nice to have references like this easily accessible to give to parents in times of crisis. Sometimes I feel helpless and even handing a pamphlet or packet makes me feel somewhat prepared.

Autism One has a link to an entire presentation dedicated to puberty. Lots of great points and great resources!



Please share your other ideas and stories! 🙂



  1. I have had to deal with this issue for many years so nothing fazes me anymore. I do have funny stories to share but as this is a public forum, I will control myself. However, one I will share because it is still really funny to me. I had a student whose parents were visiting professors from Korea and their autistic son ended up in my program for about 6 months.I had to learn to say “please put your penis away” in Korean, which is about half of my korean vocabulary.
    Anyway, I think sexuality is very important for our students for all the reasons you mentioned, but also because our students are easily exploited. ARC said on their website that up to 80% of students with developmental disabilities are sexually assaulted. This is why I really pushed the Circles curriculum form the James Stanfield Company, which goes over the concept of touch and when it is ok and with who it is ok. I have also used the King county (washington) website https://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/personal/famplan/educators/FLASH.aspx.

    They have curriculum called FLASH, which stands for Family life and sexual health, that our school district uses. They have one tailored for self-contained special education as well and I have used bits and pieces of this over the years to cover all kinds of topics related to this issue. Check it out.

    Congratulations on your engagement!!

  2. Congrats on getting engaged!

  3. O MY! Congratulations!!! So do we get to hear the story and see the ring? 🙂 I’m so excited for you!

    And thanks for sharing so many great resource!

  4. *resourceS! I hate it when my “s” key sticks and it sounds like I have really bad English…

  5. Omigosh thank you so much for all of your great ideas!!!

  6. Thank you 🙂 SO excited!!

  7. Ahh thanks!! 🙂

  8. Congratilations on your happy news!!

    Anyone in Australia reading, or even those abroad, might be interested in the link below. It has a lot of really helpful information on sexuality education:

  9. Thank you for your informative blog. I get it daily to my email. I have told all my colleagues about this great information source. CONGRATULATIONS!

  10. Congratulations on getting engaged!

  11. Congrats on your engagement- it must be so difficult to focus!
    I had to attack the topic on masturbation my first year of teaching! We made social stories for this particular student for how he could touch and interact with classmates/friends, teachers, and at home with his family. The most difficult part was sharing it with his conservative, Egyptian parents! We used the terms “at home”, “in your bedroom”, and “door closed” alot.
    Mary Wrobel teaches in my district and has created a hygiene/health curriculum that we use a lot!
    Another thing that I did for my girl students who might be starting menstruation soon is make a video on the ipad- the video is of my younger sister (no face or body- just her hands and legs)changing a pretend pad. Also using some of those pictures I put them in a sequencing app to let my students practice the steps for changing a pad.
    Last year, the other intermediate teacher and social workers and I started doing “health education” once a week with our students. We have been able to divide them into 3 groups- a girls group, a boys hygenie group (working on lower skills such as washing hands and taking care of my body) and a boys health group. I think that this has been beneficially for the students so that we have had time to talk about all of these issues!
    I agree this is a very uncomfortable topic, but the more I talk about it with the students the more I feel like I’m doing something to help them and gain a little bit of understanding into what is going on with them

  12. Thanks Kelly!

  13. Thank you 🙂

  14. Thanks Michelle 🙂

  15. Omigosh I cannot believe you had to learn that in Korean! Haha! That made me laugh out loud!!

  16. This was one of the most challenging behaviors I had to deal with on a comprehensive campus…plus, now I’m dealing with it again at the probation camps sped classes so I just continue to use social stories – which really help as there is no such thing as “private” time at a juvenile facility. Special Education – Peggy Simpson

  17. Good point. It can be so challenging!

  18. How early have you all had to deal with this issue? I work in-home with a 9 year old boy who is just discovering himself and exploring, and cultural differences might make this a difficult issue to tackle.

  19. Yes – it can start early. It is very difficult to deal with in the home setting. Make sure you and the parents are on the same page!

  20. Okay,, im trying hard to stop laughing. i cant .. yet…. omg. My son is 12 autistic and he wont leave it alone!!!! He doesnt care if anyone is watching either. I thought i was all alone with this problem. Guess not!!! This has been going on a long time though,, for a couple years,,, but this year is soooo bad!!! This social story though is hilarious,, i dont think i can give this to him with a straight face. :::)

  21. Hi Sasha! This was SO helpful for use with one of my clients and I’m sharing with my team! I miss you, hope you are doing well!!! 🙂


  22. Hi Amber! Hope all is well! We miss you!

  23. I do not have a child with autism but I’m seeking knowledge and guidance on the subject. My 15 year old daughter was followed to the bathroom at school by a young man that the school has explained is low functioning autistic. I am not knowledgeable about autism and want to fully understand to appropriately handle the situation and help my daughter work through it as well. She was changing clothes in the bathroom stall and he entered the bathroom, crawled under the door, and that’s when she saw him. She swung at him while yelling to get out, he continued to enter the stall & shoved her, she screamed for help, he told her he was leaving, she pushed past him and ran. I understand that sexuality and puberty would be a confusing time. Most information out there talks about self touching but not about behaviors towards others. My concern is him watching her, following her, without hesitation crawling under her stall door, and stating he’s leaving once she started to scream for help. Where they are insinuating he’s low functioning, from what I read it doesn’t seem to be the case to me. I don’t want anything negative for this boy. I want my daughter to feel safe. I’ve not been able to find anything that is remotely close to this as an example of possible negative behaviors related to autism. Have any of you seem anything like this? Any information would be so appreciated. I just don’t want my daughter to feel victimized but I also don’t want this behavior explained away as autism if this isn’t something that is related. Feels like an excuse for why a school wasn’t properly supervising a student with a disability. He was just as much at risk in this situation, what if he left school grounds? And many other situations that could have been harmful for the student.

  24. Many young people with Autism struggle with knowing how to appropriately interact with the opposite sex. Some get in trouble in this area for inappropriate conversations or staring. Generally the autistic student will need significant intervention that can involve social stories, pictorial cues, social coaching, and very clear rules and expectations. In some cases they need 1:1 support which may be the case here. With some situations involving males on the spectrum, I have seem them be socially inappropriate with girls who have been kind to them because they misinterpret the kindness.

    Your daughter absolutely deserves to feel safe. The school may not be able to give you full information but they need to give you strong assurances that your daughter will be kept safe. This is very important because if this student does not have sufficient and appropriate intervention, this could happen again. You are correct this could place this student as well as other students at risk.


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