≈ Special Needs Sex Education

Special needs is defined as “any of various difficulties (such as a physical, emotional, behavioral, or learning disability or impairment) that causes an individual to require additional or specialized services or accommodations (such as in education or recreation).”1 Some individuals with some of those aforementioned disabilities are seen by some as asexual or not interested in sex.2

“A lack of sex education makes this [special needs] population more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, [PhD Kara] Ayers says. In addition, children with I/DD [intellectual and developmental disabilities] are 4.6 times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities, according to the World Health Organization,” according to the American Psychological Association.3

“Persons of all functional levels need information on their bodies, their rights, and how to interact in society. Only through this education will individuals be able to achieve autonomy and increase their control over their lives,” according to a paper titled “Sexuality Education Intervention for Parents of Children with Disabilities: A Pilot Training Program.”4

The sourced articles below should provide you more information about sex education and the special needs population.

  1. Human Sexuality Education For Students With Special Needs

    “Young people with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities face many obstacles to healthy sexuality, including lack of education, vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and discrimination from a culture that has difficulty accepting these individuals’ sexual expression. This paper explores the issues surrounding sex education for the developmentally disabled and provides valuable strategies and resources for teaching the facts and encouraging healthy sexuality.”

    Online Resource, advocatesforyouth.org, accessed on 6/26/2018

  2. Sexual Education Resources

    “Sexual education for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities is extremely important. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, is doing its part to highlight this. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year. Approximately half of all adults with cognitive disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents in their lifetime.”

    Online Resource, respectability.org, accessed on 6/26/2018

  3. Developmental Disabilities And Sexuality Curriculum

    “This curriculum, the first of its kind in the country, is designed for self-advocates and staff to teach a sexuality education series together as a team. This curriculum is offered by Sexuality and Developmental Disabilities Workshops. Please click below to be taken to their website or to contact them for more information.”

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America, plannedparenthood.org, accessed on 6/26/2018

  4. Expert Top Tips – Sex And Relationship Education

    “Developing adult bodies and sexual interests and feelings is normal progression for all young people, but those on the autism spectrum, it may be particularly difficult. Read on for six top tips on how to approach the subject of sex and relationships with young autistic people. … 1. Don’t ignore it … 2. Explain that relationships come before sex … 3. Consider where and when to begin … 4. Plan what to cover … 5. Make boundaries clear … 6. Build up confidence …”

    Lynne Moxon, autism.org.uk, accessed on 6/25/2018

  5. Sex Education: Teaching The Most Vulnerable

    “Let’s talk about…SEX EDUCATION: Why? Because there are a few things, parents of children with special needs need to know… because we also know our children are vulnerable. But they are also sexual beings…like it or not.”

    Chantai Snellgrove, parentingspecialneeds.org, 4/19/2018

  6. Sex And Intellectual Disabilities

    “People with I/DD may also be seen as incapable of sex or unable to be effective parents, adds Kara Ayers, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. At the other extreme, she says, is the view that people with I/DD [intellectual and developmental disabilities] are unable to control their sexual behavior. Partly as a result of these perceptions, people with I/DD may reach young adulthood with no information about sex. Research shows that young adults and adolescents with I/DD know much less about sex than peers without disabilities (Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Vol. 50, No. 1, 2015). And that’s dangerous. A lack of sex education makes this population more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, Ayers says. In addition, children with I/DD are 4.6 times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.

    Online Resource, apa.org, 12/5/2017

  7. Sexuality Education Intervention For Parents Of Children With Disabilities: A Pilot Training Program

    “There is a need for educational programming that focuses on sexuality development, specifically for the individual with a disability. Persons of all functional levels need information on their bodies, their rights, and how to interact in society. Only through this education will individuals be able to achieve autonomy and increase their control over their lives. The combination of formal and informal education options would best serve all the needs of the individual in their least restrictive environment.”

    Kristen Clatos, BSc, Matthew Asare, PhD, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 7/6/2017

  8. Yes, People With Disabilities Have Sex & Deserve Sex Ed

    “For those people lucky enough to get some form of sex ed in school — rather than the disaster that is abstinence-only education — it most likely was limited to penetrative sex between an able-bodied man and woman. This leaves most people with disabilities without any sort of formal sexual health instruction — let alone the fact that large parts of society refuse to even acknowledge that they’re capable of having sex at all. Kaleigh Trace — a writer and sex educator who identifies as queer, disabled and femme — is trying to change that. She answered a few questions on making sex ed more inclusive and accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.”

    Elizabeth Yuko, sheknows.com, 4/18/2017

  9. Children And Families Forum: Sex Ed for Young Adults With I/DD

    “There are those who wonder why individuals with I/DD [intellectual/developmental disabilities] would need sex education, and the answer is easy: they’re human. ‘People with disabilities are wired the same way as everyone else. They have the same core need for meaningful relationships and opportunities to express their sexuality and fulfill sexual needs,’ explains Leigh Ann Davis, MSSW, MPA, project manager for Justice Initiatives at The Arc.”

    Sue Coyle, MSW, socialworktoday.com, March/April 2016 Issue

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Footnotes

1. merriam-webster.com, accessed on 6/26/2018

2. sheknows.com, 4/18/2017

3. apa.org, 12/5/2017

4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 7/6/2017