NATHHAN National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network

Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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I was so relieved to see your article on teenage boys with mental disabilities “touching themselves”

     We have been dealing with this for a couple of years and didn’t know who to talk to about it because it’s so embarrassing.  I mean, who do you get advice from----teachers, therapists, your pastor?  You don’t want to tell anyone because you feel ashamed or maybe not ashamed, but you just don’t know what words to use.  Since reading your article, I sat down with our son and explained to him that it was not polite to do and also that is was a sin, a self-pleasing activity, but so far that hasn’t helped.  I still “catch him” at it.  Do you have any other advice for us?

Editors Response:

It is hard to share with you any further advise, as I am not sure of your son's mental age, and so forth.  Basically, we have made sure that Jordan keeps his hands on top of the blankets at night and during the day if he is resting.  A hands off the area policy should be implemented (except for cleaning and bathroom.)  Supervision in the bathroom may be an idea until he gets through this.  Going to the bathroom is expected to be just that, and no more. 

     Sometimes if we head it off early, or if you see he might be having a bad day or exhibiting behavior that precludes this sort of thing, get him busy doing something. I think that for many normal young men, self-stimulation is a real issue, mental disability, Down syndrome or William's syndrome aside.  What we can do is continue to keep the lines of communication open, pray with your son and celebrate the little victories.  An incentive might be an idea, if you are sure that he is not fudging, such as purchasing something he likes, or going somewhere he would enjoy.  Sometimes mentally disabled young adults, (mental ages 6 or 7 ) respond really well to a goal ahead.

    Your young man seems like a real sweety.  Perhaps try not to major on this (although I remember when Jordan was going through this at age 15, it was hard not to be constantly thinking...what is he doing right now?).

    We also make sure that everyone in the house is on the same page as far as what is expected.  If anyone sees him going in that direction, we verbally warn him (which is usually enough) or have them go get mom or dad.

    Also, we want to rule out any irritation such as ingrown hairs, rashes, not sufficiently washed, tight underwear or pants (or not secure enough either). If your son is not masturbating in his sleep, hopefully after a period of time (say 6 months) of reminders, the day-time habit (for that is all it is) should go away.