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A Sticky Situation: Masturbation Part 2

26 blog avatar 2 A Sticky Situation: Masturbation Part 2
Expert Name: Christina Giammarco, MSSA, LSW
Expert Title: MSSA, LSW
Company Name:  Step by Step Academy
Company URL: www.stepbystepacademy.org
Short Bio: graduated from the University of Dayton in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies.

While attending UD she worked as an ABA therapist on a home team. She then went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University with a focus in Children, Youth, and Families.

Throughout her academic and professional career she has focused in the areas of adoption, domestic violence, teen crisis intervention, and autism. She joined Step By Step Academy in January 2010 and is excited about being able to combine her interests of Social Work and autism. She is currently working on various projects about autism and puberty, in which she hopes to make parents more comfortable about addressing these needs with their children. Additionally she is working with various consumers doing individual and group counseling sessions with focus on gaining social skills and being able to identify and appropriately manage feelings and emotions.

A Sticky Situation: Masturbation Part 2

Once a parent is able to discuss masturbation with their child and set up an appropriate schedule that works for them, it is important to make sure that the child understands where and when masturbation can happen.  Because masturbation is a pleasurable act that relieves frustration and tension, people with autism may not understand that it is a private act.  It is important to set up a system to determine what places and times it is appropriate to engage in this act.

It is important to establish rules and boundaries early, especially if you believe that your child would engage in masturbatory behaviors frequently and in inappropriate places. Being able to use a visual schedule that shows not only appropriate times but places is a way to establish an effective system.  Additionally, many people with autism do well with social stories that outline scenarios that they are able to follow.

When working with a child on the spectrum that may inappropriately engage in masturbatory behaviors, there are a few steps to help make the process more effective:
1.    Use reinforcement for not doing it: if the person follows their schedule and doesn’t engage in behaviors during periods of time or places that would be inappropriate, positively reinforce them
2.    Start with small steps: when going on a shopping trip, take them into the store for one or two items and build upon the amount of time that they are able to be in public without engaging in behaviors
3.    Set consequences for behaviors: if they engage in behaviors, throw temper tantrums, or act inappropriate, set consequences for these actions. Explain why their behavior was wrong and as a result they will be punished or lose a privilege. It is important that they learn to be accountable for their actions, if they have the capacity to understand this.
4.    Take advantage of teachable moments: use examples of relationships, other’s behaviors, books, television, and things they enjoy to understand other’s behaviors and consequences, both positive and negative.

Remember that this is a long-term process and that every child will display different signs and engage in different behaviors. It is important to remember that the biggest concern is the safety of the child and establishing goals that are feasible to meet.


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Parent Waitlist Program


November 02, 2023 | 12pm-1pm PDT

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Community-based program designed to support families on waitlist

Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
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