Be Safe: Intervention Resources for Caregivers


These resources are designed to provide information and tips on how to provide support to individuals with autism who may have experienced sexual abuse or assault. There are general resources that are appropriate for all ages and developmental levels, as well as specific resources for caregivers, professionals and individuals with autism.

Coping Strategies for Caregivers

Coping With Your Feelings

Parents and caregivers of individuals who have experienced abuse or assault typically feel very upset after learning of the abuse. Feelings may range from denial, anger, and sadness, to frustration and helplessness.

Practicing good self-care is important. You can better support the victim if you are able to cope with your own emotions. Cope with these types of feelings by using techniques such as deep breathing, journaling, exercise, or progressive muscle relaxation. Finding activities or ways to take a break can also help.

Seek professional help in coping with your feelings related to the abuse or assault. By seeking treatment you can show that seeking help is a healthy way to cope with feelings following abuse or assault.

Contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE or for help finding support in your area. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has resources and a web forum to communicate with others on topics such as child abuse, victim’s rights, court preparation, and more. To access their website visit:

Resources for Caregivers

These books and resources provide helpful information for caregivers of children who have experienced sexual abuse.

Check your local library for:

    • Win the Whining War and Other Skirmishes: A Family Peace Plan, by Cynthia Whitham MSW
    • A Very Touching Book…for Little People and Big People, by Jan Hindman
    • Let’s Talk About Taking Care of You: An Educational Book About
    • Body Safety, by Laurie Stauffer and Ester Deblinger
    • Let’s Talk About Taking Care of You: An Educational Book about
    • Body Safety for Young Children. [toddlers version] by Laurie Stauffer and Ester Deblinger
    • Let’s Talk About Safety Skill for Kids: A Personal Safety Activity
    • Book for Parents and Children, by Laurie Stauffer and Ester Deblinger
    • It’s MY Body: A Book to Teach Young Children How to Resist
    • Uncomfortable Touch (Parents Guide), by Lory Freeman
    • Helping Abused Children, by Patricia Kehoe

Finding and Understanding Treatment for Sexual Assault or Abuse

Finding a Therapist for Individuals with Autism

A therapist must feel competent working with children who have autism as well as carrying out treatment for sexual abuse. When forming a relationship with a therapist, it’s important to ask questions such as:

    • Do you feel comfortable working with children diagnosed with autism?
    • What is your training/experience with autism?
    • Do you feel comfortable treating children who have experienced sexual abuse?
    • What evidence-based treatment options do you provide for children who have experienced sexual abuse?
    • Do you feel comfortable adapting treatments for sexual abuse to be appropriate for children with limited verbal communication skills?
    • Can you provide treatment that uses visual elements to support non-verbal participation?
    • Do you feel comfortable making treatment work for children who display restricted and repetitive behaviors?

A good therapist will feel comfortable answering these questions honestly.

It’s also important to share your expectations regarding treatment. Some things you can expect or request from a therapist include:

    • Willingness to add predictability and structure to the therapeutic environment
    • A therapeutic environment that accommodates your child’s sensory sensitivities
    • Willingness to adapt and modify treatment to your individual child based on developmental level, learning style, mode and level of communication

Knowing What to Expect From Treatment

Your child will be given an opportunity to discuss details of the abuse and their feelings in a supportive and nurturing environment. Children should be able to communicate in the way that works best for them, such as by drawing pictures, writing or typing it out on the computer.
Therapists may also help children share their stories by using a tape or video recorder. Use of toys or other strategies can be used to help communication and tailor treatment to the child’s developmental skills.
Treatment should teach correct information about sexual abuse that eliminates common misconceptions, such as, “The abuse was my fault” or, “I’m the only kid who has experienced abuse.” Children are usually taught skills for relaxation and coping with negative feelings. Treatment for sexual abuse also helps children learn to cope with reminders associated with abuse.
Overall, treatment should aim to reduce any negative psychological symptoms your child began experiencing following the abuse and help your child learn ways to prevent abuse from happening in the future. Because parents and caregivers know their children best and spend the most time with their children, they are often included in treatment. Some things to expect when you participate in treatment include:

    • The opportunity to discuss your feelings and thoughts about your child’s experience
    • Learning techniques to improve parenting skills
    • Gaining skills in family communication
    • Becoming prepared to discuss the details of the sexual abuse your child experienced with you child

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
Be Safe: Intervention Resources for Caregivers Coping Strategies for Caregivers pdf Download file: Be Safe: Intervention Resources for Caregivers
Be Safe: Intervention Resources for Caregivers Finding and Understanding Treatment for Sexual Assault or Abuse pdf Download file: Be Safe: Intervention Resources for Caregivers

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.