Dealing with masturbation as apparent stimming behaviour...

3 replies (Jump to last post)

Naomi Botha



A sensitive issue has come up for a family I support...

Their 8 year old daughter on the autism spectrum (fairly high functioning) has started to touch herself/ masturbate quite viggorously as an apparent simming behaviour or release of tension. This seems to only be happening in the family home around her family members, over the last few weeks and they have sought my advice.

It is the end of our 2nd term of school here in South Africa, so it could be triggered by the excitement/nervousness of dealing with the transition of going into the school holidays? There are no other obvious truggers that we are aware of...

There are no concerns about this being sexual in nature (no concerns about any possible abuse).

I have suggested that mom talk to her openly and honestly about what she is doing (without any hint of critiscm) so that she feels safe to talk about what she is doing and why it helps her or why she needs to do it... To then talk about where she can appropriately do this and where it is not appropriate. To talk about the fact that this is private and should not be done in public spaces - around other people.

I am in the process of writing a social story for her to assist them with this.

I just wondered if anyone had any experience with this and could offer advice about how to best manage this sensitive issue?

We don't want her to develop insecurities or shame around it and want to handle it clearly and carefully to help her make sense of when and where it is ok to masterbate. And to also determine why she feels the need to do this (especially as she is so young) and see if she can find that same release in another more approrpaite way when she is around other people...

Your ideas aould be apprecaited.



Edited on June 30, 2017 - 1:12pm

July 05, 2017 - 2:34pm

Hi Naomi

Hopefully someone will be able to share their experiences to you, but I also asked colleagues at the National Autistic Society Helpline for information and advice, and we’ve collated some links below. I hope you find them useful:

Information on masturbation, private/public spaces, behaviour diaries

Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines

Sensory differences

Advice on creating Social Stories and Comic Strip conversations

The fpa (previously the Family Planning Association) has created a number of sex education resources specifically for individuals with a learning disability that you may find useful to look through:

The following would be particularly useful as it has a section on masturbation and privacy:
Kylie’s Private World:

However, there are a number of topics included that you may feel are inappropriate for an 8 year old so please watch it first and decide what they feel is suitable.

Beyond Words is a provider of books, services and training for people who find pictures easier to understand than words.  They have a small selection of books that look at this type of topic that may be useful: 
They also have an app where you can create personalised stories yourself here: 

The resources on the external websites are provided for your help and information only. They are sites maintained by other groups, organisations and individuals and these links are provided in good faith. The presence of a link does not necessarily imply that the NAS endorses or supports the originator(s), nor does the absence of a group imply that the NAS does not support it and cannot be held responsible for the quality of the information provided.

Many thanks,

Network Autism team


September 16, 2018 - 8:26am

Hello Chris,

I am a Consultant Paediatrician and have recently diagnosed a 5 year with ASD, he is masturbating at home and public places. Both parents are professionals and understandably distressed. Thank you for sharing /signposting to the above Resources. Much appreciated.

kind regards


June 23, 2020 - 12:32am

Please help, this is new to us our 13 year non verbal son, just starting masterbation. How do we control it if it gets out of hand and if we are somewhere and he decides to in front of other how can we fix it?