Information for parents

Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in puberty

Puberty is a period in which many changes occur, both physical and emotional changes. This makes adolescence for most people a difficult life period. But all these changes are often more difficult for adolescents with ASD. In the Netherlands there are about 14,000 adolescents with ASD. But there are many more adolescents (over 100,000) who have problems that belong to the autism spectrum, but not so serious to get a diagnosis.

During puberty, there is an increasing need for social-emotional skills, which is often limitedly developed in adolescents with ASD. At the same time, their physical development is progressing as other adolescents. This creates a gap between the physical and socio-emotional development. This gap may inflict with the psychosexual development and can lead to several problems.

It is quite frequent that adolescents with ASD express the need of shaping friendships, relationships, intimacy and sexuallity, but they cannot do that due to the lack of knowledge. Thus, they are in need for guidance or control. Recognizing and indicating their own bounderies and recognizing and considering other people's boundaries are things they often find very difficult.


The Tackling Teenage Training (TTT) program

Due to these reasons, creating an effective guidance for adolescents with ASD is very important. For this reason, Yulius Mental Health Organisation in the Netherlands has developed the Tackling Teenage Training (TTT) program to guide the pubertal and psychosexual development of adolescents with ASD.

The TTT program aims to promote psycho-sexual and pubertal development of adolescents with ASD and to educate in various topics of sexual behaviour and awareness. The training program focuses on increasing knowledge and enhancing skills on physical and psychosexual changes, such as the perception adolescents with ASD have for themselves and for others. In addition, it focuses on the ways they can develop intimate relationships and satisfying sexual behaviour. The training program also addresses to adolescents that have already experienced psychosexual problems. However, the training does not only focus on negative experiences and prevention but also on positive experiences that an adolescent with ASD has and on the right that people with ASD have on the experience of sexuality.


The Tackling Teenage Research

From 2010 to 2015 research was conducted by Yulius and the Erasmus MC-Sophia Children Hospital, by means of a pilot study and an Randomized Controlled Trial. This study was called the Tackling Teenage Research and examined how adolescents with ASD developed during puberty and if the TTT program could ensure that adolescents with ASD gained more knowledge, skills and insight in psychosexual theme's, to enable them to go through puberty in an effective way. The first results from the pilot study have shown that at the start of the training adolescents have a lack of knowledge and skills relating to psychosexual themes. Beside this, at the start of the training several problems and worries are brought forward in the area of psychosexuality by adolescents and their parents. The data that was collected as an evaluation of this training showed that the training had a positive effect on the knowledge and skills of adolescents and decreased the worries of parents. Furthermore, the pilot study showed that parents and adolescents are very positive about the training and the information provided. Also, the adolescents' self-confidence appeared to be increased after following the training. The results of the Randomized Controlled Trial are expected in 2016.

If you want more information about the TTT program and the possibilities outside the Netherlands, please contact us through the contact page.

Training material

The manual of the Tackling Teenage Training is available online (only in Dutch) For more information