Autism Sex
Autism nambitomo /iStock

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January 10, 2017

Philly nonprofit to teach youth with autism about sex

'First-of-its-kind program' aims to bridge education gap

A Philadelphia nonprofit has received a grant to develop a "first-of-its-kind program" that will help youth on the autism spectrum learn healthy sexual behaviors.

The Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) said Tuesday that it has been awarded $4.8 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop the program, which will aim to prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections among young people with ASD.

Emmy Stup, director of PHMC’s Philadelphia Area Sexual Health Initiative, said teenagers with ASD have lower levels of sexual knowledge and are less likely to receive sex education.

"While ASD impacts approximately 1 in 68 children in the U.S., no program currently exists in the U.S. to help young people with ASD understand healthy sexual behaviors,” Stup said in a news release.

The new program, entitled Promoting Awareness through Live Movement and Sound for Youth with ASD — PYA for short — will be developed over the course of five years. It will use interactive theater lessons, tailored messaging and role-playing exercises to teach healthy behaviors.

PYA's first trial run will be rolled out in Camden schools and community-based sites in the Philadelphia region. Five hundred teens between 14-19 will be measured by their sexual knowledge and behaviors at the beginning of the program, at six months and again at 12 months.