Autism: Why teaching consent is important
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
What is Consent?
Consent is when someone gives permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Consent should always be given because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
Why isn't it just about sex?
Consent is important and everyone in a situation must feel able to say "yes" or "no" or stop an activity at any point. However, consent is also about us making choices about what we want to do in other areas. From a young age we're told that we have to do certain things and act in certain ways. Growing up has many new feelings and hormonal changes; at times things can feel chaotic and often others can dismiss our emotions as they see them as "just a phase" or that we'll "grow out of it".
These messages can suggest that what we're feeling and experiencing right now is wrong, unimportant and to be dismissed, our desires and consent ignored.
If you're autistic society can see your emotions as odd and dismiss them even more.
If you constantly receive these messages you may be less likely to express your desires into adulthood. And this is why consent is about sex, boundaries, and all choices!
What age should it be taught?
Listening and validating a child's feelings, giving choice, and explaining that permission is needed from others, before activities can be taught at a very young age.
What does it mean for autistic people?
If you constantly have your feelings and desires dismissed:
You may be less likely to express them
Feel forced to agree
Not tell them altogether
Feel your views are unimportant
Have a low self-esteem
Have poor personal boundaries
Not respect others feelings and desires
How can you do to help?
Listen to how they feel, even if you don't understand. This shows you take their feelings seriously and is validating. Feeling that your opinions and desires are important can help someone feel it's okay to express them.
Giving choice - ask them about what they want to do
Teach healthy boundaries
Teach them to ask for consent from others before activities
Here's a few videos on consent for you to look at. One uses tea to explain and the other is simpler and for children.