KATHY LETTE: The reality of navigating your son's sex life when he has autism.

Find out more about Kathy Lette’s Girls’ Night Out.

My generation had to leave home to have sex. But now most of us allow our kids to have sex at home once they turn sixteen, it ends up making for some very awkward moments over the muesli in the mornings, as you never know who is going to turn up – animal, vegetable, mineral…..

But when you have a child with special needs, the parental angst is in overdrive.

My son Jules was diagnosed with autism when he was three.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition whose chief characteristics are an inability to communicate, chronic O.C.D. and anxiety, but also, often, a very high IQ. I call my son Wikipedia with a pulse. But his clever quirkiness meant years of school bullying.

Kathy Lette on why we should change the way we view autism. Post continues below.

Video via MMC

Aged nine he came home with a sticker on his back reading “Kick me, I’m a retard.” You might as well have ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it.

Consequently, I became ridiculously overprotective. I would never let him out of the house without enough in his backpack to set up a comfortable wilderness homestead.


The mother of a kid with special needs has to be his bouncer, legal advocate, medical researcher, full-time executive and – once he hits his teens – possibly even play pimp. Let me explain…

Since puberty, my son had attempted everything to attract girl – well, bar covering himself in chocolate sprinkles. But to females his own age, he just proved too exotic. He might as well have been a koala performing the can-can.

Girls acted as though he’d arrived by spaceship from Planet Freak. Seven years of endless rejection meant that, by age 20, my son’s self-esteem was lower than Kim Kardashian’s bikini line.

It broke my heart to see him cast off into Social Siberia. One night I came home to find him slumped alone in the dark. “Clearly all these girls must be right. I’m a total reject,” he despaired. “Mum, if you’d known I was autistic, would you have aborted me?”

His words floored me. I desperately wanted to help my son – but how?

I tried setting him up on dating websites, but his idiosyncratic profile – “Come join me in my whacky world, where relationships are at their zany best” attracted only one reply from an 82-year-old grandma, who wrote “Time wasters need not reply.”

Friends in the autism community were equally anxious about their offsprings’ sexual cravings and curiosity.


One exasperated mum suggested we frequent a brothel. But who would take them? Not their mothers. What would we do – sit outside, knitting? Paging Doctor Freud to reception. But when we asked our male friends, all that was left was a cartoon plume of smoke as they ran for the hills.

Wracked with anxiety, I was driving home one night when, on an impulse, I suddenly swerved off into the red-light district. Now, this is not my natural habitat. My natural habitat is a library.

Yes, I did register the fact that soliciting a prostitute for one’s progeny rates rather high on the Jerry-Springer-o-meter. But mothering a child with autism tends to recalibrate one’s view of ‘normal’.

Kathy Lette sits down with Mia Freedman on No Filter to talk about her life outside of being an author, and what it’s like raising an autistic son. Post continues below.

As my car slowed, provocatively dressed women slunk out of the shadows. But so did their pimps. And believe me, these are scary looking guys. I’m a writer – the only wound I’ve ever received is a paper cut.

It also crossed my mind that what I was contemplating was illegal. And I really didn’t want to be strip searched – not without dinner and a date first!

And it’s just as well I panicked and raced homeward, as the next week a father was prosecuted for curb-crawling, while trying to pick up a sex worker for his son with autism. I realised with a sickening thud, that it could so easily have been me.


But the whole experience got me thinking about sex for the differently abled.

How does someone with special needs fulfil their inalienable right to the pursuit of life, liberty and human sexual contact?

You never see differently-abled people depicted in a strongly sexual context – they’re either pitied or inspirational. But Hollywood versions of sex and romance are not the only way people express love.

I finally found a dating organisation which match-makes people with special needs – the Flame Agency. Jules has been in a loving relationship with Tabitha for 18 months now.

He’s so happy he has to look down to see cloud 9. And consequently, so do I.

The emotional terrain experienced by parents trying to help their disabled children navigate sexual and romantic intimacy can be extremely bumpy. The best way to help is to start talking more openly about dating and disability… and to also remember that when it comes to sex, we all have special needs.

Kathy Lette is the author of 14 novels, the latest of which is “Best Laid Plans.” She will be talking about raising her autistic son – plus love, life, marriage, the menopause, Puberty Blues, hiding Julian Assange in her attic and tongue kissing Prince William plus much, much more, in her solo show “GIRLS NIGHT OUT” at the Seymour Centre, Sydney on 1st of November and the Athenaeum, Melb, 4th of November. More info here.