Research explores hidden world of autism and sexuality

The complexities of consent

Ground-breaking research is helping health professionals and care workers understand the issues and myths surrounding sex and sexuality of people with autism.

Despite persistent misconceptions that people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) – and other disabilities – are asexual, there is evidence that many autistic people have sexual desires and want to have sexual relationships. This becomes problematic when a person’s ASC makes their consent legally unreliable, and can lead to them being at risk of exploitation or abuse.

The research, in partnership with the charity Autism Initiative, explored what professionals feel they can, or should, do to support people with autism who cannot legally give consent, and how this fits with current policy, advice and training.

“This research aims to highlight the value and problems of the current policy context and identify what, if any, changes need to be made to better support those working with people with autism and enhance their work practice.”

Allison Moore, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences