Autism and Sexual Assault: These are two topics I have experience with and ideas about. I'm in the habit of writing on these topics all year round, and April is no exception. However, during April I'm more of a listener. Trending hashtags and stories, people feeling encouraged and safe, men and women recognizing themselves in others and sharing how that feels, or not recognizing themselves and sharing that loneliness, maybe even risking so much to be a brave newcomer offering a different perspective and story – these things are closer to the surface during an awareness month and I like to lose myself in it; surround myself by their experiences and beliefs rather than my own so that, when I find myself again, I am more.
I also do share during April, because I want to contribute my story and ideas as well, to play more than one role. But largely, I listen.
This April, Dr. Lynette Louise (“The Brain Broad”) offered to share her experiences, knowledge, and stories with me on video – so while I listen, you can too. Not only is Lynette an international brain change and behaviour expert specializing in autism, but she is also the mother of eight now adult children, six were adopted and four had autism as well as other cognitive and social challenges. All of her adopted children had experienced abuse, including (for some) sexual abuse. With unstoppable energy and a willingness to think way outside the box, Lynette helped all of her children grow beyond expectations. It was a home of loud love and blunt language. I know because I was there. I'm Lynette's oldest.
Please take time to view the video. Mom and I are planning to talk together about Sexual Diversity once a week throughout April, creating videos that will add value and perspectives to the awareness discourse. Next week we will be discussing the particular vulnerability to assault disabled people face. If you have anything you want mom to discuss during this time, I hope you'll let us know! Or if you feel more comfortable keeping your questions private, you can always email her. (Contact info is available on her websites www.lynettelouise.com and www.brainbody.net ) Keep in mind that asking questions out loud allows others to learn along with you. So, if you are comfortable, consider it.
Learn and listen with me during this awareness month and let's take what it teaches us into tomorrow and beyond.
This weeks video:
Sexual Diversity: Autism
Tsara: I believe we're recording.
Lynette: OK, I believe you're recording all right.
Tsara: Hi, thank you so much. Thank you so much for doing this.
Lynette: Of course.
Tsara: it's Autism Awareness Month, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Awareness and Prevention Month. And so I thought the first video that we should do is definitely, if you don't mind, going
to be about sexuality and autism.
Tsara: and since you are an international brain change and behavior expert specializing in autism and my mom and mom to my brothers who had autism, I thought that you're the perfect person to talk about this with.
Lynette: Yeah, I think so, too. [laugh] My name, by the way, for those of you who don't know, is
Dr. Lynette Louise. People call me the brain broad. My daughter calls me mom.
Tsara: [laughing] Ya, I usually call you mom.
Lynette: And I adopted six children and five of them were challenged and four were multiply
challenged - four we're on the spectrum of autism, but they had other things too, fetal alcohol syndrome and whatnot. It was an interesting life that my biological daughters got to enjoy as we
brought them into the fold. And I'm sure you have your own memories of them going through their experimentation phases and learning phases as they hit puberty.
Tsara: So, yeah, I think puberty was a fun time for all of us.
[Tsara and Lynette laughing]
Lynette: Yes. Fortunately, we're an open minded family and we were able to sort of work our
way through that. But just start by being very personal so that, you know, the been there done that. But to also let everyone know that I now work all over the world and I have all kinds of families, and this is a common, common issue. Any kind of difference in how you approach life, you're going to have a
difference in how you approach sexuality, sometimes it's going to be a physical limitation. Perhaps you're a little person or you're in a wheelchair or perhaps you don't have language or perhaps swallowing is very difficult for you. So kissing could feel like you're about to drown
Tsara: Ya, sensory issues in general, people have various sensory issues.
Lynette: Yeah, right. So so no matter how you look at this, it's going to have challenges. If you are
different, there's not going to be the resources to help you to know how to cope with your challenges. You said, let's start with autism. So let's start with autism. I'm going to tell on my son here because he's okay with it, not all of my sons are. But he has a fixation for a fabric called nylon. And it's a very particular type of nylon. And he's had many situations that have been problematic because of this. So, for example, he was working in a ski resort and he went into the courtroom and there was this jacket that he fell in love with. Now, just imagine this for, you know, it's funny. It's cute. But it's also real. He walked in and in the same way in a movie, when you see somebody get a glint in their eye when they see a particular person and they're attracted to each other, he felt that way about this jacket. This jacket compelled him strongly. And so he thought, well, I'm all alone. Nobody will know anything. And he snuggled up against it. And he had an ejaculation that surprised him. And then he realized it was a security camera area. And I was picking him up at work and he came running to the car and he jumped in and he sat, or laid on the back seat floor and said, go, go, go. I'm in so much trouble.
Lynette (Cont'): So I'm telling you this story because it was very real for him and because it's
fun to imagine and it's funny, but also this could have ended very badly. This simple need to have a particular fabric could have ended very badly, and it didn't. Nobody saw anything on any security camera. We talk through it. He came up with his own, he found his own nylon. He made his own nylon friends. He's handled this beautifully. But that's because we got lucky and I was able to help him, right, if this happened and someone had seen it and I tried to explain it and, you know, the
police were called in, this learning experience could have turned into a lifelong shame and medication and incarceration. And really, it was just a sensory override. And this is -
Tsara: A glint in his eye.
Lynette: Right, and the thing is, with autism, there's a lot of that going on. There may
be a particular smell that attracts or repels. There's a lot of repelling. You know, maybe your breath, a hair that grows out of the chin could be the end of it for somebody.
Lynette: Right, so there's a common theme that's going on in this sensory issue for
people with autism, and that often leads them into very unusual sexual relationships. It also often leads them into gay relationships, for example. And this isn't a judgment it's a reality. Right? So, yes, if different, if a surprising body part throws you off, then you're going to want one that's much more familiar, to you.
Tsara: Oh that's interesting. I never would have thought of that. That's interesting.
Lynette: Yeah. Oh, yeah. It's it's hugely frightening to a lot of people. The opposite sex body.
Lynette: Right. Right. And they have not made friends with it because they haven't been able to, sort of, learn about each other in the same way over the years. Now you hit puberty and oh my gosh, what do I do with that thing? But at least I know what to do with my thing. OK, so there tends to be, yeah. And there's a kind of narcissism in autism anyway. And really there's a kind of narcissism in choosing your own gender. Right. Being yourself.
Tsara: That's interesting.
Lynette: So all of these things come into play when you're trying to make a relationship and you hit puberty and you're driven by all of these needs. I think if I were to give any kind of advice on this, it's just you're going to have to, maybe autism is here so that we take our judgment cap off and we actually listen and we say what's actually going on for you? Things that can look like bad behavior can just be confusion or compulsion. Another example, same son, he - you know - he'd learned about privacy. He had learned, you know, that you have to make sure that you're in your own room or in the bathroom as he learned about masturbation. And so we had my daughter, your sister, biological, had her in-laws over and we were invited and everybody was there. And I don't know if you remember this, but it was this very, very staunch group of people [laughter]
Tsara: I know the in-laws, yes. [laughter]
Lynette: Yes, And and so he thought, oh I really, you know, I've got this spontaneous erection I don't know what to do it. So he took himself off to the bathroom, just as he should, and he laid down a towel on the bathroom floor and he locked the door and he set the scene for himself and he moaned really loudly. And everybody was looking at each other.
[Tsara and Lynette laughing]
Lynette: And I had to go Rye, private includes sounds.
Tsara: That's funny!
Lynette: So but this is also an autism thing. So it's not just that he didn't put all the pieces together till he made the mistake and I helped him. But it was, it's also that with autism, you often don't regulate your sound well. Your tones are, you talk loud or monotone, right? So it isn't something he would have naturally thought of without stumbling upon it. It isn't something I would have necessarily thought to teach him -
Tsara: You wouldn't think to tell him until the mistake happened.
Lynette: Right. So -
Tsara: It's the way you were willing to talk about it with him, without judgment that helped him go oh, okay, good point, and move on. Because he has these urges and every right to figure out how and learn how to follow those urges.
Lynette: Right. And how to do it safely, and how to do it with kindness with other people. Also, he does not feel that he wants to be in a gay relationship but he signals men without knowing why.
Tsara: That's true, he does! He's always gotten men who want to go out with him and he's even gone out with guys because he didn't know what to do but that's who he's interested in-
Lynette: And to try it.
Tsara: Right, ya.
Lynette: Here's another autistic thing, a lot of them walk on their toes and that's his thing, he has this bop, this walk that he does and it's similar to the kind of walk that you would create if you were trying to signal men that you were interested.
Lynette: Right, so all these things that he had to learn about himself and how to signal the true interest, how to not signal incorrectly, how to be actually private, and then how to satisfy his desires based on his own compulsions and sensory needs. Um, ya. And that's just one person.
Tsara: That's just one of my brothers.
[Lynette and Tsara laughing]
Tsara: That's why I keep saying you're uniquely knowledgeable and good to come to with these questions because you work with people all over the world -
Tsara: so, first you did it as a mom with my brothers, and with all of us. I mean, you had to help me through puberty too. And it is a difficult subject and a lot of people just won't talk frankly about sex and sexuality anyways, never mind when you have these weird differences that are more confusing – how to talk about it – because it's not out there. There's not a lot out there. So, you are comfortable talking about it but you also experience all the different ways in which people have tried to talk to their kids and loved ones, and how people have reacted to it. So I love -
Lynette: Right, and
Tsara: So I -
Lynette: Ya, and maybe we'll get into all that next time.
[Tsara and Lynette laughing.]
Tsara: Ya, so it's not just with autism but I think what you said is so spot on. With sexuality and autism, but with autism in general, it's almost like it give us – we already have a need to talk better about our reasons behind things, to be more frank about sexuality but to be more frank about a lot of the rules we've made up in life and, we already kind of needed that but with autism it's so necessary that, we could choose not to do it or we could follow your lead and choose to do it. And be uncomfortable for a while until we're comfortable.
Lynette: Right. And, well we could go on and on about this whole making it a difficult subject and making it uncomfortable in the first place is the problem but we'd be here forever. So, that was a go od starting place. So thank you for inviting me to do this! We'll do more over the month.
Tsara: Ya, I really appreciate it, and thank you so much. I, I love you.
Lynette: I love you too. Bye sweetie.
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