Mental Health Services

AuSM's highly trained, certified therapists have committed their careers to helping individuals with autism understand their diagnosis and address both the challenges and gifts that it can bring. 

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AuSM Mental Health Services 
Barbara L. Photo 
Sara Pahl, MS, BCaBA, NCC

Beth Pitchford, MA
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Ask The Therapist

Dear Dr. Barb,


My son recently started exposing himself to my grandchildren, whom I watch in our home. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but I've caught him since talking to him. How can I stop this behavior?

 -Teen Troubles

Dear Teen Troubles,


This is part of a larger issue of conforming to social rules about sexual behavior. Having ASD does not make one less of a sexual being but it does make understanding why some behaviors are okay and others are not quite difficult. 


First, remember that people with ASD tend to need very explicit and specific statements of the rules. We often think we are doing this when we are not. For instance, it is often okay for a 3-year-old to remove his clothes in public but not for a 10-year-old. There are exceptions to every rule and if a person with ASD is aware of exceptions to the rule they may disregard the whole rule.


Secondly, it is possible that your son has learned to state the rule and say that it is wrong without really understanding why it is wrong. If he is a highly logical person he may continue with the behavior if he thinks he won't get caught because "wrong" means "I will get in trouble if I am caught" and not that the behavior might be harmful to someone else. 


Finally, everyone, including those with disabilities, needs an appropriate way to satisfy their sexual curiosity and express their sexuality. If we limit socially inappropriate behavior without teaching socially appropriate behavior we are likely to fail.


Depending on your son's language level, I would suggest writing a social story explaining why it is wrong to expose himself to children ( i.e. it might scare them, others will think he might hurt them, they will not feel comfortable being with him, etc). Then talk about what he can do when he feels sexually aroused. This is a personal decision, but you cannot tell him not to become aroused - that is beyond the capacity of any person. 


If he likes videos you might make a video self model of him acting appropriately. Video self models are short (1-2 minute) videos which show a person doing the desired behavior. Depending on the family, a video in this case might just show the adult going into his room but it might also be more explicit if he needs to see what he can do in private. You can click here to get more information and see examples of video modeling. 


I would also make sure that he has positive and appropriate ways to interact with the children so that they can build a relationship with each other. For an article with more information about sexuality and disability, click here.


Barbara Luskin, PhD, LP

Autism Society of Minnesota

The AuSM Mental Health Services Team offers therapy and support:
  • Diagnostic, functional or behavioral assessments for children, adolescents, and adults
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Behavior consultation
  • Marriage and couples therapy
  • Training for organizations and service providers
To inquire about our services or to make an appointment please contact  
Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is a self-funded organization committed to education, advocacy and support designed to enhance the lives of those affected by autism from birth through retirement.