Sexuality and Persons
The idea that persons with disabilities
cannot have a significant social and intimate relationship with someone
is still a very pervasive one in our society. People with disabilities
at any age are often portrayed as asexual and incapable of forming meaningful
relationships with their peers and those of the opposite sex. This idea
is, of course, not true. The need to be social, to be loved, and to show
love to someone else does not diminish with disability. Youth and
young adults with disabilities face the same obstacles regarding sexuality
and relationship building as those who are not disabled. It is important
to realize, though, that having a disability may add more issues for both
parents and teens/young adults to think about.
What is Sexuality?
Although most people associate physical
sexual relationships with sexuality, it is actually a more complex aspect
of our lives. Being accepted and liked, displaying and giving affection,
and feeling that we are worthwhile are all necessary aspects of life and
of our sexuality. In addition, our self-esteem, culture, social experiences,
and morals all play a part in shaping us as sexual beings.
Sex education should involve the same kind
of content for all children and it should be an ongoing occurrence throughout
a child’s life. Since sexuality involves more than just reproduction, it
is important that sex education be comprehensive. This means that:
Often it is difficult to decide at what
age you should teach your child about sexual issues. Here are a few suggestions:
At an age appropriate level children and teens
should be provided accurate information regarding reproduction, contraception,
STDs, parenting, and other issues surrounding sexuality.
Values and attitudes of the family, society,
and culture towards sex should be explored. A young person should be given
the opportunity to develop his or her own values towards sex and develop
insights about relationships with both genders.
Interpersonal skills should be allowed to
grow and develop
Young persons should be taught, at an age
appropriate level, about sexual responsibility. This includes talking about
issues such as resisting pressures to become sexually active at an early
age, considering abstinence, proper use of contraception, and other issues.
Sex Ed and Disability
Preschool Years: Teach your child appropriate
names for body parts. Include the sexual organs.
Age 5-8: Teach your child about correct names
and functions of body parts, difference between boys and girls, elementals
of reproduction and pregnancy, qualities of a good relationship, decision
making skills and consequences, beginnings of social responsibility, values
and morals, avoiding and reporting sexual abuse.
Age 8-11: Teach your child that sexuality
is part of the total self, any more information on reproduction, importance
of values in decision making, communication with family about sex, STDs,
abstinence, and masturbation.
Age 12-18: Teach your teen about health care
and health promotion, communication, dating, and love, the importance of
values guiding behavior, other ways to express sexuality, how alcohol and
drugs can affect decisions, birth control and responsibilities of child-bearing.
Tailoring the pace and presentation of
sexual information to each young person with a disability is very important.
Parents and professionals should consider:
Importance of Teaching Social Skills
How the young person’s disability may affect
his or her social-sexual development.
How the disability affects the young person’s
ability to learn information about sex
What extra information may need to be provided
to address any specific characteristics of a particular disability.
Although it has already been mentioned,
encouraging socialization is very important for young people with disabilities
because many of them often find themselves isolated from peers. Socialization,
of course, also plays a vital role in sexual development. So what can a
parent do to promote socialization for their child? Here are a few suggestions:
Fostering Relationships: Advice for Young
Help your child pursue hobbies or special
Encourage your child to pursue recreation
and leisure activities in the community
Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular
activities in school
Help your teenager find employment or volunteer
opportunities in the community
Try not to overprotect your child
Here is a brief list of suggestions for
young adults with disabilities when trying to foster relationships:
Don’t ever believe that no one will love you
because you have a disability
Don’t build your life only in search of romance
Be a friend to someone first
Be patient in your search for connections
Keep up on current events and happenings—this
will make discussions and socialization a lot easier
Be open with others about your disability,
especially with someone who is not disabled
Remember, regardless of your disability, lovemaking
This material was adapted from: NICHCY
News Digest, Sexuality Education for Children and Youth with Disabilities,
Volume 1, Number 2, 1992.