Department of Psychiatry
Penn Behavioral Health

Penn Autism Network

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2010 PAN Workshop

Autism, Asperger Syndrome & Health Sexuality: An Advanced Workshop for Professionals
June 28-29, 2010

PAN's Conference, "Autism, Asperger Syndrome & Health Sexuality: An Advanced Workshop for Professionals", took place on Monday & Tuesday, June 28-29, 2010. Author of Asperger's Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence through Adulthood, Isabelle Hénault, PhD, was the presenter. The conference offered 12 workshops, elaborating on strategies to improve the social and sexual skills of adolescents, young adults, and older adults with ASD.

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ABOUT DR. HÉNAULT: Isabelle Hénault, Ph.D., returns to Penn after a hugely successful appearance in 2007. She is a psychologist from the Univ. of Québec. Her practice and research have focused on providing diagnosis, education and support to children, adolescents, adults and couples living with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Dr. Hénault has developed a relationships and sex education program and works with individuals, couples and groups. Alongside Tony Attwood, Ph.D., she is a consultant for the Australia-based Minds and Hearts Clinic. In addition, she collaborates on numerous international research initiatives. Dr. Hénault is the author of Asperger's Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence through Adulthood (Jessica Kingsley Publisher, 2005) and presents to audiences around the world.

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP: Recent years have seen rapid development of interventions ASDs. However, there are very few programs that address interpersonal relationships and sexuality. Utilizing case illustrations and examples, this presentation will elaborate on strategies to improve the social and sexual skills of adolescents, young adults, and older adults with ASD. The following topics will be addressed: friendship (personal values and personality factors); emotions (expression, "Mind Reading" software, reading faces); communication (verbal and nonverbal, “Theory of Mind”); sexual behavior (enhancing appropriate behaviors, hyper- and hyposensitivity); intimacy (couple and family relationships, misinterpretations, demands); and interpersonal relationships (within the contexts of school, work, friends and couples).

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At the conclusion of this workshop, specific to sexuality and ASD, participants will be able to:

  1. Assess and analyze unresolved sexual needs and problems;
  2. Prepare and apply guidelines for helping people with ASD;
  3. Utilize the sexual education program for individuals with ASD (developed by Dr. Henault and her colleagues);
  4. Summarize advanced information and educational techniques regarding sex education;
  5. Apply tools and strategies in group format.

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Click here for printable version of the agenda


9:00-10:30 Introduction; brief review of 12 workshops and the philosophy of the sex education program.

1. Introduction to sexuality: presentation of the topics, participants and procedure of the program
2. Assessment of knowledge: questionnaires and assessment tools for adolescents and adults participants

10:30-10:45 Break


3: Sexuality and communication; communication exercise, words of sexuality
4: Love and friendship; "little add" game; feelings and emotions; values in friendship and relationships

12:00-12:45 Lunch


5: Emotions and sexuality: explore, identify and recognize a range of emotions, pictures of human faces, emotions related to sexual realities

2 :15-2:30 Break


6: Physiological aspects; puberty; "pictures of genitals" game; glossary and definitions; videos, discussion and examples



7: Contraception and prevention; importance of condom use and demonstration on "penile model"; safe sexual practices
8: Sexual orientation; list of myths; Am I Homophobic? quiz

10:30-10:45 Break


9: Alcohol, drugs and sexuality; group project: scenario and social story; effects of alcohol and
drugs on sexuality
10: Sexual abuse/inappropriate behaviors; intimacy; notion of consent; sexual assault, sexuality and the law

12:00-12:45 Lunch


11: Sexism and violence; privacy, boundaries, intimacy; stereotyped relationships and roles; scenarios and role-playing
12: Managing emotions, theory of mind, and intimacy; social stories integrating sexuality, nonverbal skills, Mind Reading software

2:15-2:30 Break

2:30-3:45 Review of the best use of topics and material

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Day One: Workshop Topics

1. Program Philosphy

    1. Concrete activities and explanations
    2. Positive attitude; healthy sexuality
    3. Open communication
    4. Group format
    5. Sexuality as acomplexity

2. Socio-sexual Skills Workshops

    1. 12 weeks with12 themes
    2. 90 minutes sessions
    3. Small groups (4-12)
    4. Adolescents & adults
    5. Questionnaires, games, role-playing, software, videos, discussions, social stories, group project

Other Workshop Topics

  1. Sexuality and communication
  2. Love and friendship
  3. Emotions, theory of mind, and intimacy
  4. Physiological aspects
  5. Sexual orientation and preferences
  6. Alcohol, drugs, and sexuality
  7. Sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviors
  8. Sexism and violence
  9. STD's, HIV, and prevention

Sex Education Programs

    • Durocher & Fortier (1999), Hénault (2002)
      • Adapted activities
      • New format/procedure
      • New tools
      • Integration of sexual profile
      • Social skills/Theory of Mind

Behaviors and Skills

  • Demonstrating interest towards other participants by eye contact and/or listening
  • Waiting for their turn before speaking
  • Giving opinion and defending their point of view
  • Providing constructive criticism and suggestions
  • Learning to recognize other’s intention

3. Love & Friendship

  • "Little add" game
  • Feelings and emotions

4. Physiological changes

  • Puberty
  • "Pictures of genitals" game
  • Glossary
  • Defenitions

5. Sexual relationships

  • My first relationship video
  • Fears checklist
  • Values game
  • The Five Senses Activity:
    • Experience the senses?
    • Consequences in relationships?
    • Behaviors concerned?


6. Emotions and sexuality

  • Explore, identify and recognize a range of emotions
  • Pictures of human faces
    • Imitation
    • Mirror
  • Software-Gaining Face
  • Emotions related to sexual realities

7. Contraception and prevention

  • Quiz
  • Importance of condom use
  • Demonstration on penile model

7. (Cond’t) Condom use and safe sexuality

  • 10-steps on penile model
  • In fact, what’s the first step?

8. Sexual orientation

  • List of myths
  • Quiz: Am I homophobic?
  • Video
  • Discussion

9. Alcohol, drugs and sexuality

  • Group project: scenario
  • Positive approach (reinforcement) instead of reprehensive
  • Guide on the effects of alcohol and drugs on sexuality

10. Sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviors

  • Intimacy
  • Consent
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexuality and the law

11. Sexism and violence

  • Privacy, boundaries, intimacy
  • Video
  • Stereotyped relationships and roles
  • Scenarios and role-playing

12. Managing emotions, theory of mind, and intimacy

  • Social Stories integrating sexuality
  • Recognize other’s emotions
  • Non verbal skills
  • Role-play

Observation tools

  • Friendship Skills Observation Checklist-first version (Attwood, 1999)
  • Aberrant Behavior Checkilst (Aman & Singh, 1986)
  • Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1983)
  • Knowledge Questionnaire for Adolescents (Durocher & Fortier, 1999)


  1. Improvement of social and sexual skills
    1. Presentation
    2. Conversation/reciprocity
    3. Helping/empathy
    4. Non verbal skills
    5. General knowledge/judgement
  2. Reduction of problem behaviors
    1. Isolation (contact, activities, conversation)
    2. Impulsivity
    3. Inapp. sexual behaviors (masturbation, touching)
  3. Generalization (3 months measure)
    1. Better knowledge
    2. Interpersonal relationships, friendship
    3. Positive attitute about sexuality


  • Interest from individuals with Asperger’s syndrome
  • Demand from parents and professionals
  • Interesting results
  • Service curriculum

Future Plan of Services

  • Second phase: generalization and Emotion Management
  • Meeting their needs and profile of abilities/difficulties
    • Mind-Reading Software (Baron-Cohen, 2002)
    • Emotion Management Program (Attwood 2004)
    • CAT-KIT (Attwood & Callesen, 2005)
  • Community Intervention (Griffiths, Quinsey & Hingsburger, 1989)
    • In vivo training in the community
    • Support system
    • Enlarge services for Aspies: psychological (Attwood's CBT; sexological services, etc.)
  • Reference material and tools
  • Workshop for participants
  • Discussion period
  • The sexual profile of adults with

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