Our unspoken rules surrounding physical touch require a great deal of social awareness. Needless to say, then, issues of who can be touched and how and in what context they can be touched can be confusing for both kids and adults on the autism spectrum. This can lead to people on the spectrum inadvertently touching others inappropriately.
One way to avoid these issues is to teach autistic children about consent, the idea that physical touch—even something as innocent as a hug—should not happen unless both parties are on board with it. The reason for this is simple: as they are our bodies, we are the only ones who have the right to decide what we are comfortable doing with them.
But if you’re struggling to help your child understand this concept, maybe this awesome YouTube video can help.
This video was made specifically for children to help them understand what consent is and is not. It shares with them the things they cannot consent to as minors, like sexual acts. And it does so excellently and simply, with plenty of visuals to aid comprehension. Though it was not specifically designed to be for kids on the spectrum, one adult, (presumably) autistic Reddit user noted, “I wish someone had spelled it out for me that way as a kid.”
As you watch this video, you will notice that it also teaches kids that no one should be able to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, either. This is equally important to teaching your child the rules of physical touch.
For example, if Auntie Carol wants to give kiddo a hug and kiss but kiddo doesn’t want that, kiddo has every right to say “No, thank you” and have that wish respected. And that wish needs to be respected regardless of whether it’s Auntie Carol, a peer in their class, their therapist, or even you who is being turned down.
So as you teach your child consent, make sure you model what it looks like in addition to teaching your child what exactly it is. For example, don’t touch them unless you’ve received permission or their lives are in danger (e.g. they just walked into the path of a car, and you need to grab them). This consistency will help your child learn and internalize what to do if they want to touch someone.
It’s never too early to teach your child about consent, either. It is a valuable life principle that every single person—both neurotypical and autistic—should know about and understand. And this video is a great tool that can introduce your child to this vital concept.
Check it out!
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.