Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sexually Inappropriate Behaviors: An Introduction for Caregivers and Professionals

  • Jerrod Brown Pathways Counseling Center, Inc., American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota)
  • Gabrea Anderson
  • Laura Cooney-Koss
  • Bethany Hastings
  • Hal Pickett


Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by difficulties with social interactions, communication challenges, and rigid or fixated behaviors. In some instances, these symptoms may contribute to involvement in the criminal justice system for an array of offenses including inappropriate sexual behavior. Although case studies of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder who have committed sexual offenses exist, the degree this disorder has on increasing the likelihood of committing sexual offenses is unclear. Characteristics and deficits associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder are reviewed and possible impacts they may have on inappropriate sexual behaviors. Identifying gaps in the knowledge of the relationship between Autism Spectrum Disorder and inappropriate sexual behavior should aid professionals who work with this population.

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), deficits, sexually inappropriate behaviors 

Author Biographies

Jerrod Brown, Pathways Counseling Center, Inc., American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota)

Jerrod Brown, MA, MS, MS, MS, is the Treatment Director for Pathways Counseling Center, Inc. Pathways provides programs and services benefiting individuals impacted by mental illness and addictions. Jerrod is also the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), lead developer and program coordinator of an online graduate degree program in Forensic Mental Health from Concordia University (St. Paul, Minnesota), and the Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Scholars Today (FST). Jerrod holds graduate certificates in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Other Health Disabilities (OHD), and Traumatic-Brain Injuries (TBI). Jerrod is certified as a Youth Firesetter Prevention/Intervention  Specialist, Thinking for a Change (T4C) Facilitator, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Trainer, and a Problem Gambling Treatment Provider. Jerrod is currently in the dissertation phase of his doctorate degree program in psychology.  

Gabrea Anderson

Gabrea Anderson, B.S., has been working with adolescents for 18 years focusing on youth corrections, residential mental health treatment, and adolescent sexual offender treatment. She is a Mental Health Practitioner with Northern Pines Mental Health working in a school setting. She is currently pursuing a master degree in forensic mental health. 

Laura Cooney-Koss

Laura Cooney-Koss, Psy.D. M.CJ. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Delaware and New Jersey. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Forensic Associates of Delaware, LLC. The clinicians in this practice specialize in conducting psychological evaluations for a variety of legal referral questions and providing training for the community and professionals on forensic clinical issues. Laura specializes in the assessment and treatment of youth and adults who have committed sexual offenses and a significant portion of her practice for the past 13 years has been devoted to this population. Laura also specializes in working with victims of sexual crimes and has worked with this population for over 15 years. Laura also conducts trainings for parents, youth, and professionals on sexual offending and sexual victimization. 

Bethany Hastings

Bethany Hastings, MA, AT, is a Lead Therapist and the art therapist at the Lazarus Project, Plymouth, MN, working with clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has her master’s degree in Adlerian Psychology with a duel degree in Art Therapy (AT) and License Professional Counseling (LPC). Bethany is working towards LPC licensure and obtaining a board certification in AT. 

Hal Pickett

Hal Pickett, Psy. D., LP, ABPP is a Clinical Psychologist and Director, Client Services for Headway Emotional Health Services. He has Specialty boarding through the American Board of Professional Psychology in Child and Adolescent Psychology. Dr. Pickett has worked with children on the spectrum for over twenty years in assessment and treatment.