Sexuality Issues with Autistic Boys
Posted September 29, 2012
My son is 8 years old. He gets prolonged erections that seem to make him aggressive and stay up late at night. When I try to put him to bed early, he becomes agitated. Sometimes he gets too excited and anxious and keeps laughing. Can you help please?
Answered: October 15, 2012 by Dr. Sidney Baker
You raise a touchy issue. It is one that I have dealt with face to face and in groups of parents with widely varied cultural backgrounds over the past 40 years. That leaves me confident that only a tiny minority of readers of my answer will reject the idea that erections should not be touched! Autistic boys are usually not in touch socially with other boys or are often out of touch with their bodies. Some with high testosterone levels may also be on the young side of the age range when such questions become part of playground talk. They may, therefore, deal with erections in ways that are contrary to the male consensus: get an orgasm. They may, moreover, not discover by themselves the most efficient way to bring relief to the strong drive that spreads from intimate parts to intemperate behavior.
So here’s the tricky question. Should a parent explain to such a child how to masturbate to orgasm? Under the circumstances at hand, the answer depends on two conditions.
1. That the parent be emotionally mature person and able to confront the task with composure and, perhaps, a modest sense of humor such as I have found in hundreds of parents who have had to deal inventively with many situations that they never dreamed they would encounter as a parent.
2. That the message to the child be understood as gift with an underlying priceless value in safety.
Here’s the set-up of the gift. The message that the parent understands and conveys in words and spirit even to a child with limited receptive language is this: “I am going to explain something to you that is very interesting. It will allow you to give yourself pleasure and it’s something that nearly all boys do – some more than others. In exchange for this gift you have to give me your understanding that this is something you do in private. And you must understand that no-one may touch you this way. And if they try to you must say “NO” and you must tell me.”
In other words, this is a sacred moment in which your child’s safety can be promoted. Needless to say, in most situations these days the public display of an erection can produce some serious misunderstandings with disturbing consequences to the child and his family. An erection is, moreover, the appropriate event around which to frame a clear message regarding sexual abuse. Finally, you can accomplish the explanation without intimate touch. A simple demonstration with a finger or other suitably phallic item would suffice to covey to a boy the idea and relieve him of experimentation that may have had him engaging in various inefficient forms of rubbing and humping.
Moms, in general, find the idea sensible and often believe that the job should fall to a dad. Dads, on the other hand, find themselves reaching to the depths of the purse where they keep their courage or whatever other resources are needed to overcome flagrant embarrassment. Once accomplished they are rewarded by amazement that their “non-verbal” kid got the whole deal on the first try and that he now can come home from school, disappear to his room and come down stairs smiling and free of a large measure of his irritability and aggression.
But wait, there’s more.
Testosterone? Yes, it is indeed the culprit here. And are the some boys and men with what might be considered “too much” of it? Yes. Nature continues to experiment with each of her creatures, forever fashioning individuals who populate the ends – and beyond – of the normal distribution curve. Are autistic boys more likely to have high testosterone than others? I don’t know.
I believe, however, that autistic kids who are “less inhibited” are more likely to be noticed. The notice of high testosterone levels in some autistic boys led to studies showing the benefit of a drug (Lupron), known to women who have taken it as part of treatments for infertility. The benefit of such an approach comes at a certain cost, including the side effects of the drug. Ask any woman who has taken it!
There’s another way of looking at the question. It is discussed in the chapter entitled “A boy with breasts” in Detoxification and Healing. In summary it goes like this. Hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, cortisol, etc.) are very active molecules. When your body is done with one, it cannot simply be let loose into the blood stream to be passed into the urine or bile for elimination. Instead it has to be “packaged” – so to speak “bagged” for elimination. That packaging is part of an essential and universal (among all living creatures) process called detoxication.
Detoxication takes care of toxins from two (or three, depending on how you count) sources of active substances. First, the products of your body’s own chemistry such as “used” neurotransmitters, hormones, and the leftovers from the workings of your chemistry. Think of the smoke from the chimney and the dumpster in the yard of a factory. Second, the toxins that arrive “by mistake” from the environment. One mistake, here, is whatever places a long list of nasty chemicals at your disposal: lead, mercury, PCB’s, dioxin, pesticides, and so on. Another mistake is that your body took them in. Your nose – designed to sniff out what is edible or breathable, your digestive tract – designed to throw up items that don’t pass inspection, your liver and kidneys – designed for immediate export of alien substance – they all may fail to keep you clean. Finally, the third source of toxins is the bacteria and fungi that live normally in your own digestive tract but may be altered in troublesome ways. It’s your flora, AKA microflora and, recently, your microbiome.
Taken together, these three sources of toxins combine to produce a total load requiring daily handling on the part of your body’s sanitation department. The more “dirt” your body makes, takes in, or absorbs from it digestive tract’s smelly contents, the less effective it is in ridding itself of any one component, such as excess hormones. In the case of the boy described in my book, mentioned above, it was extra estrogen that was eliminated when attention was paid to increasing the efficiency of his detoxication chemistry. In others, it can be extra testosterone or any of numerous other toxins.
The remedy is not, in my opinion, to give a drug (Lupron) to block the effect of the hormone. The remedy is to decrease the total load and increase the body’s detoxication capacity. Decreasing the total load has to do with a cleaner diet, fewer stinky germs in the digestive tract and less exposure to environmental chemicals. Increasing detoxication capacity has to do with induction of glutathione (GSH) production.
The simplest way of doing so by increasing intake of GSH inducers such as broccoli sprout extract, turmeric, and a long list of spicy or pungent foods. The most convenient way for picky eaters is a supplement of broccoli sprout extract in the form of a pill that can be rendered into a powder and mixed with food. (BroccoProtect is the brand name of a potent preparation of broccoli sprout extract, which comes from the stem of the tiny sprout of broccoli seeds). These and other measures that your doctor may suggest will provide more of the raw material that your body uses to make GSH and a gentle stimulus to increase its production. Combined with measures to decrease the overall toxic load your boy’s detoxication system will become more efficient and you may see the results reflected in a more appropriate expression of testosterone’s effects on behavior.