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Exploring the Impact of Positive Reinforcement in Sexual Advocacy and Education for Autistic and Neurodivergent Communities: Key Takeaways from SexABA 2024

SexABA 2024 Recap | January 30, 2024

It started waaaaaay back in August.

August 27, 2023: Behind the scenes: Brittani got a random Instagram DM from me:

A screen shot from instagram showing Dr. Shelby Dorsey reaching out to Brittani Gomes
Direct message from @drshelbydorsey to @its_medusa7

She agreed!! 

After some back and forth and brainstorming together, we decided that applying to be a speaker at SexABA 2024 would be a great way to flush our ideas out and get a product that people could use. Over the next four months, we assembled Positive Reinforcement as a Catalyst for Equity in Sexual Advocacy and Education: A Neurodivergent Perspective, a 30-minute introduction to a topic we were now fully involved in.

Excitingly, and I mean VERY excitingly, we learned that we were not only accepted but also had the honor to be the KICK OFF presentation. Eeeeeeek! We were pumped. 

I don’t know if everyone experiences this, but once we knew we had been accepted, that's when the real work started. We dug into great literature together and built out learning objectives and some real-world examples that were meaningful to us. 

Opening a conference is a pretty huge deal, so we decided to pre-record our presentation to fit exactly into our time slot (a 30-minute time slot is almost more daunting than a 2-hour one). I am notorious for overtaking, and I felt extra aware of my tendency to drag things on too long, so the pre-recording was really our best option—but holy sh*t, I fought for my life in Canva trying to sync my audio after Brittani had beautifully recorded hers and placed it perfectly. But we made it through, the final recording coming in at a whopping 21 minutes and 46 seconds. 

Thankfully, my guestimated timing was legit; after the initial introduction, zoom room opening, and some sound adjustments, we got started at about 1:07 and ended right at 1:29 for the moderator to come on, thank us, and communicate to the rest of the conference the next steps. Whew! Right on time. 

Brittani and I were just smiling from ear to ear and the end– the comment section was poppin’, the compliments were reinforcing, our series of random DM’s led to Brittani’s first conference presentation and my SECOND (remember, my first was at WIBA 2023 over ChatGPT). 

It was magical. 

While the conference itself is over, you can catch the asynchronous recordings at SEXABA’s website. AND if you get the change to watch ours, we would love for you to follow our QR code at the end (or use this link) and ask questions, leave feedback, or whatever type of engagement you see fit. 

Brittani and I are going to release 2 additional resources. First, we are going to answer the questions from our Q&A, give recommended readings, and provide additional information from the presentation. In addition, we will release an ‘extended’ version of this presentation where we cover the objectives in more detail, with more examples, and include answers to some of the most pressing questions in a longer format.

Make sure you are signed up for my email list to get the update on the extended version! 


Dr. Shelby Dorsey, the SD


Now, to the recap of our SexABA 2024 presentation, where we dived deep into the world of sexual advocacy and education through the lens of positive reinforcement.

I'm Dr. Shelby Dorsey, an autistic queer BCBA with ADHD, and alongside my co-presenter, Brittani Gomes, we were thrilled to share insights and empower you with a neurodivergent perspective on this crucial topic.

Understanding Positive Reinforcement in Sexual Advocacy

Positive reinforcement, a fundamental concept in behavioral psychology, involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior, increasing the likelihood of that behavior recurring. In our context, it was about acknowledging and rewarding inclusive and respectful behaviors, especially in neurodivergent individuals.

We imagined a world where discussions respected diverse sexual orientations and identities, where participation and questions from all were positively reinforced, and where biases and stereotypes were dismantled. This approach fosters equity and an informed understanding of sexual preferences and desires and sexuality.

Neurodiversity and Non-Traditional Dynamics

Sexuality is a multifaceted aspect of our lives, encompassing identity, feelings, behaviors, and relationships. When addressing sexual education for neurodiverse individuals, we recognized the unique challenges they face, including sensory sensitivities.

Acknowledging and reinforcing desired behaviors empowered neurodivergent individuals to navigate complex social situations, establish boundaries, and promote sexual self-advocacy. We challenged the misconception that neurodivergent individuals lack desires of intimacy and connection.

Translating Academic ABA into Real-World Applications

To truly make a difference, we needed to bridge the gap between academic jargon and practical applications. One key strategy was plain language, making content accessible to diverse audiences, including neurodiverse individuals.

Creating an inclusive environment for neurodivergent individuals involved thoughtful event planning, like providing quiet areas, ensuring accessibility, and offering mentorship or partnership opportunities for extra support.

Conclusion and Call to Action

Our journey through positive reinforcement in sexual advocacy highlighted the importance of empowering neurodivergent individuals and fostering inclusivity. By embracing these principles, we aimed to create a future where sexual education transcended traditional barriers, embracing and celebrating neurodiversity.

We encouraged attendees to submit their questions and thoughts, and we shared answers and resources via email after the conference. If you'd like to continue this essential conversation, connect with us on Instagram, email, or LinkedIn. Together, we can make a positive impact on sexual advocacy and education.

Thank you for joining us on this journey towards a more inclusive and understanding world of sexuality during this recap of SexABA 2024: Positive Reinforcement as a Catalyst for Equity in Sexual Advocacy and Education: A Neurodivergent Perspective.

You can visit the conference site here:

Positive Reinforcement as a Catalyst for Equity in Sexual Advocacy and Education: A Neurodivergent Perspective
Opening Slide: SexABA Conference Kick Off

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