EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was inspired by an edWeb.net webinar entitled Sexuality Education for Students with Autism, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, given by Ruth M. Eyres, NBCT, Easter Seals Outreach, Special Education Consultant. It was sponsored by STAR Autism Support and vizZle.
Just like everyone else, people with special needs long to have satisfying companionship. Many would like to marry and have families. And regardless of other developmental delays, their bodies generally mature at a normal rate.
Issues arise when students don’t have a normal sense of modesty, often because they are helped with personal care. They may not know that it’s wrong to touch their private parts in public. The hugs they freely gave when young may no longer be appropriate. It’s important for them to know how to ask someone out and how to accept rejection. And students with disabilities can be targets for sexual abuse. So teaching about sexuality is important.
However, this seems challenging. Parents and teachers are often not sure what to teach or how to teach it. There are several resources which can help.
There are guidelines for content. SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, published Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education on their website (www.siecus.org). Another resource is National Sexuality Education Standards, Core Content and Skills K-12, which provides content guidelines with an evidence-based approach.
There are also many resources which provide instruction. EdWeb webinar presenter Ruth M. Eyres suggests getting parent buy-in and permission before using them, and there are sample permission forms in the first resource in this list. The entire list of resources can be found at http://www.edweb.net/.5a32370f/.
- Introduction to Sexuality Education for Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind and Significantly Developmentally Delayed, by Kate Moss and Robbie Blaha, is a free download. EdWeb presenter Ruth M. Eyres called it her “go-to guide” and it has a lot of good resources for school action plans, including sample permission slips and how to create a curriculum. Chapter 7 is particularly good for handling students who act inappropriately.
- Dave Hingsburger’s YouTube video on Sexuality and Relationships explains why sexuality education is important.
- Sproutflix (sproutflix.org) contains videos which feature people with disabilities. The video Can I Call You?, directed by a young man with autism, shows his efforts to ask a girl for a date.
- VizZle has ready-made social stories and games in their resource list. Search on Dating and Relationships, Public and Private, and Masturbation. If you don’t have VizZle you can get a free trial.
- The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities offers the free downloads The Healthy Bodies Toolkit for Girls and The Healthy Body Toolkit for Boys. Each book has printable activities and an appendix with visuals; the girl version talks about dealing with menstruation, and the boy version talks about wet dreams and erections.
- The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has many free downloadable resources about preventing abuse.
- Boardmaker share has a free social story about masturbation for boys with disabilities, called Touching Yourself Social Story. It teaches boys to wait until they get home. You can get a free 30-day trial of Boardmaker.
- Safety Awareness for Empowerment, a free downloadable booklet, gives lesson ideas and even a script for what to say when teaching how to be safe. It also discusses appropriate boundaries for students.
- King County in Washington state offers FLASH, free downloadable lesson plans in Family Life and Sexual Health for middle and high school students with special needs.