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Toolkit for Autistic Adults

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Alexithymia is trouble with being able to know, process, or express what you are feeling in the moment. Some people describe it as a disconnect with ones own self and needs. 

  • Some autistic people think this disconnect happens because they spend so much of their lives masking and having to try and ignore their sensory needs to please others. 

  • Some people experience a delay in processing their feelings or responses to a situation. 

  • This can lead to trouble with expressing ones own needs or  desires in a relationships or sexual encounter. 

"I struggle with alexithymia. So it does mean that recognising and interpreting emotions and feelings, and what the input is telling me, is really really difficult... And then it’s really really hard to then discuss that with someone else." (Meg, agender, 36, pansexual polyamorous ,white) 

"Also always give space and time to those who might at present be uncertain of their needs. This is a big one for me as due to alexithymia I can be confused by my own feelings, or find it difficult to understand my needs and desires." (Swimboy, trans male, grey ace, mixed race)

  • Delayed reactions can lead to not realising that someone has crossed a boundary or has done something you do not like or feel comfortable with until hours, days, or weeks later. 

  • This can make you feel more vulnerable in  relationships. 

"I’ve been so programmed to mask, and spend so much energy and intellect trying to read people, and meet their expectations, I simply lose touch with my own needs far too easily!!! It’s like a delayed reaction. My instant reaction is the one I’ve learned, the socially accepted reaction, and then it takes me a while to actually process what happened and feel my own response to it!" (Anne, female, 49, bisexual, white).

What is alexithymia?

Alexithymia and consent 

Because some autistic people struggle to feel, process, or articulate their needs, finding ways to make sure that needs and consent is communicated in ways that are clear is vital. 


  • You may already know some of things you really do not enjoy or are not comfortable with doing,  and some things that you really enjoy.

  • Before having sex, have honest discussions with partners about your needs, desires, dislikes, and what your boundaries are.

  • Having these discussions before having sex when you have time to think about these and explain these clearly, avoids having to know and communicate that you are not comfortable with something in the moment which can be more difficult.  

  • Making sure that partners check in regularly and obtain continuous consent can be helpful too. 

Some people find Kink and BDSM spaces very helpful because they naturally allow for this kind of communication and consent: 

“I think the nice thing about the [kink] dynamic is it’s in control… because you’ve discussed what you want that dynamic to be, how you want that dynamic to be…It gives that sense of control, that we don’t get, particularly as autistics … it’s almost a relief because you can relax into a dynamic you understand… It’s being aware of yourself, being open and honest with yourself, and with others...It can be difficult at times, particularly if you don’t know how you feel yourself. I struggle with alexithymia. So it does mean that recognising and interpreting emotions and feelings, and what the input is telling me, is really really difficult. And then it’s really, really hard to then discuss that with someone else. But [kink] gives me a space where I don’t have to go and find the right way of discussing that with someone else. I can just go, “I’m enjoying something, I don’t know what it is, but this needs to… get more intense… stop… do something else.” … it just gives that flexibility to be what it is." (Meg, 36, agender, Pansexual polyamorous, white)

See our Kink BDSM toolkit 

Have a peek at our communication and consent pin board from our co-production workshops  

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