Safe Touches for children with autism spectrum disorders and similar disabilities

Through a generous grant from the New York Community Trust, The NYSPCC is expanding its evidence-based child sexual abuse prevention program, Safe Touches, to reach children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and similar disabilities in special education classrooms across the city. Research has indicated that children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to experience sexual abuse than their peers without disabilities.

The NYSPCC’s Training Institute worked with experts from the New York University Autism Spectrum Disorder Nest Project to modify the Safe Touches curriculum to meet the unique learning needs of children with ASD. Pilot workshops were conducted during Spring 2023 at four schools in 12 special education classrooms, reaching 90 elementary school students. Feedback from teachers, counselors, social workers, and aides was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of respondents saying they would recommend the workshop to their colleagues.

The NYSPCC will begin conducting these workshops at schools across the city at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Monthly virtual trainings will also be held for parents and for school personnel on how to best prevent child sexual abuse among this population. Through this adapted program, the NYSPCC will fill an important community need, and more effectively teach the most vulnerable children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.