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Safe classes

In the Clã's song Problemas de Expressão (Problems of Expression), Manuela Azevedo sings it very well "It should be like in the cinema. The English language always looks good. And never betray anyone". But, in truth, the English language is treacherous, just like the Portuguese language, or the attitudes of some people, not forgetting the challenges that transmitting certain information has, as is the case of Sex Education.


Imagine this sentence - "Ok, everybody take some rubbers. And suddenly people open their kit and say that they don't need them because they already have their rubbers.


Sex education is essential, as it gives people the knowledge to live an independent and safe sex life. However, in Portugal, sex education is not particularly accessible for autistic students, which can lead to a lack of knowledge around appropriate sexual behaviours as well as consensual sexual relationships. Besides this issue it is fundamental to remember that sex education is a right for all. And let's face it, this is not only the case in Portugal. Several developed countries report this same difficulty.


What are the challenges to teach Sex Education to autistic students? I think this question may apply very well to other areas equally fundamental for autistic people. And I think the difficulties and constraints have to do with the way people think and represent autism and autistic people, at various stages of development.


Whether because some people with responsibility at this level of teaching Sex Education will refer that the autism spectrum itself is quite diverse and as such this in itself makes this task difficult. In other fundamental areas there are already several technicians who have demonstrated the added value of alternative communication systems such as the PECS, among others. In other words, the fact that the autistic person has a level 2 and even a cognitive deficit should not limit the sharing of this fundamental information. Or else, there are always those who argue that the characteristics of autistic people are so different from their neurotypical peers that this same Sex Education needs to be done individually or in group, but only with autistic people. At this level I remind you that the very expression of sexuality is so diverse and that this is not the reason why we talk about Sex Education in subgroups in an isolated way. But we also always have the question of impulsiveness at a sexual level. And this reference has already been used to limit Sex Education in children. It has also been used to limit it in autistic people.


While all this and some other things are going on and thinking, what is certain is that there are still countless studies in the autism area showing that autistic people, namely autistic girls and women, are much more prone to sexual abuse situations. Besides, we are aware of the great number of autistic people who throughout their lives feel less pleasure and satisfaction in their sexual life and in the expression of their own sexuality, even because they feel great incapacity to think what they feel. And these difficulties are not derived from their behavioural characteristics of the autism spectrum, but rather because there has not been a space and time where Sex Education has had a place in their lives and has not been done in an adequate way. It is also necessary to talk about what the several studies and the clinical experience itself are telling us about the heterogeneity and diversity of gender identity in autistic people.


Maybe it is time to use our rubbers, and in this specific case I mean eraser erasers, and use them to erase certain prejudices. And we can all, together with autistic people, rewrite a different path. As Manuela Azevedo sings, "Your world is so close to mine. And what I say is so far away As the sea is from the sky".


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