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Questions to Ask Discussing Puberty with Autistic Students

Student talking with students

At a Glance

Exploring teachers' roles in puberty education for Autistic students within school policy frameworks.

Emphasizing essential topics such as bodily changes and boundary setting.

Highlighting the importance of parent engagement and incorporating individualized educational resources. 

Welcome back to our series on discussing puberty, where in part 1 we focused on parents and in part 2 we will be honing in on the role that teachers can play in making sure that autistic students are prepared for the changes that can come with puberty and have space to learn about navigating new challenges that can come with it. 

The role of teachers can differ from that of parents and caregivers quite a bit as teachers may not always be in a position to simply make a personal judgment call on what a given student needs to know. 

A teacher must consider school rules, parental expectations, and student needs in the course of determining the best possible individualized curriculum in the given circumstances. 

This post offers some questions teachers can ask about their own situation, both to determine what is applicable to their situation and to offer some guideposts on how best to react. So let’s get into those questions!

What are my school’s parameters?

One reality of teaching is that in many cases you will not have full discretion over the curriculum when it comes to teaching puberty or sex education. 

Many schools have a pre-set policy on those curricula as they are delivered to gen ed students. Special ed, however, can sometimes be overlooked. Students in special education are sometimes treated as not needing a regular sex education, however, and this can lead to a more open ended policy. 

Depending on your school’s policy you may find you have plenty of flexibility to individualize puberty and sex education lessons for your students according to their needs, or you may find that your school presents some limitations on what you can do. 

We will talk later in this post about how to approach that challenge while respecting school guidelines and making sure parents are in the loop.

What is the bare minimum that any student should know?

While there are a range of potential topics that could be included in a puberty and sex education curriculum, not every student may find every single one of those topics to be relevant. 

Some students might be interested in learning about dating while others might not feel it is worth their time. But there are two topics very commonly included in most puberty and sex education curriculums that should be taught to the best of your ability under all circumstances.

  1. Changes they will experience during puberty.
  2. Establishing and respecting boundaries.

At AGU we often talk about the importance of supporting students through transitions, and puberty is one of the biggest transitional periods about a person’s life! 

In addition to their own bodily development, students are also likely to have to navigate changing emotions and increasingly complex social situations.

Likewise, as students navigate puberty it becomes increasingly important for students to both learn the importance of being able to establish their own boundaries and the importance of respecting the boundaries of others. 

One classic example of this dynamic is hugs, which are often more widely tolerated from a younger child than a grown adult, and which can be an overwhelming experience for some autistics. Students should both feel confident in setting a boundary if they do not want a hug and respecting the boundaries of others who do not want them. These are practical and valuable skills in any student’s life including those who are not actively interested in pursuing a romantic relationship.

How do I know what else is important to talk about?

Beyond any limitations that might be associated with your school, a great starting point is a dialog with any given student to get a sense of their priorities when it comes to whether they want to pursue a relationship or learn about sex and dating. It can help to get more than one perspective on this topic, as students may not always have a full frame of reference for what they want to learn and parents can sometimes underestimate their child’s interest in pursuing relationships overall. 

As with any learning endeavor, the goal should be working together as a team to arrive at the individualized lessons that will be most helpful to your student based on their needs. And speaking of teamwork…

How can I inform, involve, and coordinate with parents?

When it comes to gen ed curricula, coordination with parents may be as straightforward as signing a permission form. In special education settings a permission form may be part of it, but it also may be worth directly contacting parents or caregivers to discuss how best to individualize the curriculum of the student in question. 

If you are in a school district that is more restrictive on what is allowed to be taught in such courses, coordinating with parents can be a time to let them know what is out there so they can make an informed decision about what to share with their child at home. 

As always, even if it isn’t necessary to be in regular communication about this topic, ensuring everyone is on the same page can make a big difference in ensuring students are getting the support they need in navigating this challenging transition.

What tools and resources can I use and/or share?

Stay tuned for part 4 which will focus exclusively on available resources for teaching about puberty and sex education to autistic students, including resources for parents who might want to take on a role of teaching some material and for older students who might want the opportunity to learn some of these topics on their own. We hope you will join us in two weeks!


In the meantime if there is a topic related to teaching puberty and sex education that you would like to hear more about then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and we will be back next week with a focus on professionals working with families.

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