I have to say, the puberty session went great! It was just at the right level. Here are the activities we did…
Defining Puberty: This was the language we used to define puberty: puberty is your body changing from a child’s body to an adult’s body. It causes changes to your body inside and outside. Everyone goes through puberty but it might happen at different times and people’s bodies change to look different. Puberty is a time when you start to get sexual feelings. You don’t have control over going through puberty, but you do have control over how you react to it. It’s normal to have mixed feelings, some good feelings and some negative feelings. This definition highlights several key features of puberty (it’s in some ways different and some ways the same for everyone, it’s a natural biological process, it can be an adjustment).
They Tell Me I’m Going Through Puberty: This is a story told from the point of view of a teenager about the changes that are happening during puberty. This exercise helps students to understand that many of the changes that are happening in puberty happen to both boys and girls. The narrative format may help students relate to the changes that are occurring.
Boys/Girls/Both: In this activity, participants were given a series of cards each with a change that happens during puberty. They decide if these changes happen to boys, girls, or both. Again, this exercise helps students to understand that many of the changes that are happening in puberty happen to both boys and girls. Many of these changes are repeated from the first exercise although more are introduced. Each card separates out each change as concrete steps.
Puberty Worksheet: This worksheet is a check in on the changes participants have experienced, how they feel about these changes, and changes they anticipate. The worksheet was designed to help students anticipate some of the changes that will happen during puberty and help them to be aware of the changes that are happening in their own body. We use both open ended and multiple choice questions to stimulate different levels of thinking.
Diversity:We showed power point slides with pictures of several people showing a diversity of bodies and ages. Students were asked, “Which ones are going through puberty?”. This activity reinforces the concept that puberty is in some ways different and some ways the same for everyone. One thing that became evident was that the students had difficulty understanding that children hadn’t gone through puberty but the were quick to grasp onto the idea that adults are finished going through puberty. We used a few favorite characters to help the kids get a little excited about the topic.
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My favorite comment from this session was, “Can we stop working on the worksheet for a minute? I just really want to listen!” We based the lesson the Nova’s “Life’s Greatest Miracle” (you can stream for free or buy the DVD for $20). We covered the material in one session but didn’t have time for the breakout groups and we went over our allotted time. We could have easily split it up into two sessions. The video is very well done and contains a lot of good information. We had the students fill out a worksheet to help them key into important points and break down euphemisms. It’s amazing how much they are learning but also what is slipping by. For example, as we’re watching the sperm and the egg meet I asked, “Is this happening inside the man’s body or inside the woman’s body?” and they didn’t really have any idea.
For the parent component of the session, we manly focused on two questions. 1) What do you think about preemptive birth control? and 2) What are your hopes and fears about your child becoming a parent in the future. Unfortunately, these are some of those questions without any easy answers.
Download the materials…
This topic generated a lot of good discussion. Our group was a little distracted today (maybe because we had a week break). For next week we’re going to try a few different classroom management strategies so we can try to spend more time focused. We’re going to simplify the rights and the responsibilities and give them 3 rules (no talking when I’m talking, no hitting, and no mean comments). We’ll also use a visual stop sign for if the group gets out of control. I’ll keep you posted how it goes! Having said that, despite distractions, I’m confident the group did learn a few things about crushes.
Activities this week…
What is a crush?
Students brainstormed what a person with a crush might be thinking and feeling. Students varied in their level of understanding as to what a crush is. This activity helped students understand that crushes are a special set of thoughts and feelings about another person. They will learned from each other what those thoughts and feelings are. None of the students in our group expressed ideas about what a crush is that would not be safe if acted upon (I was thinking someone might say something like, “I just want to stare at the person all the time and follow them around.”) We were ready to address any of the items from the brainstorm that were unsafe. In later discussion we labeled some ideas as unsafe.
How to deal with a crush
We’re used a short video to outline four steps for managing a crush: don’t tell everyone, hang out with mutual friends, talk to them directly, and don’t take it personal if they don’t like you back. As we watched the video we filled out a worksheet. The video gives very concrete advice for how to manage a crush. The questions on the worksheet helped students think about what they might say and how they may feel when trying to manage a crush.
This is where they got a little distracted. In the future, I would shorten the worksheet so there is only one question per tip. I would maybe have them work on answering the questions with a partner, then sharing with the group.
Turning someone down
We introduced students to three strategies for turning someone down or saying “NO”: no with a reason, no with an alternative, and no and go. We introduced these strategies as a way to avoid unwanted crushes. They can be used in many contexts, but especially in the future, could be use to avoid unwanted sexual behavior. Students role-played saying no in different ways to someone who has a crush on them. The role-plays worked really well! Role-playing can be difficult but it’s a great tool for rehearsing concepts that your hoping students will be able to perform in the future.
Materials for this week
This week, we focused on body image. This was probably the most difficult concept for students to grasp so far. In other weeks we’ve focused more on content but this week was more about self expression and they could connect the expression components, however, they really struggled with what exactly body image is and their own self awareness. For some of the students thinking about body image melted into feelings of self worth. The strategy we introduced, positive self talk, was also difficult for them to understand.
Activities this week…
What is Body Image? We’re used a pretty simple definition of body image: how you think and feel about your body and appearance. This definition highlights the cognitive and affective components of body image.
How I Feel About My Body For this activity we asked students to write down how they feel about their body. We then collected all the responses, redistributed them, and read them out loud. This activity allowed students to express their feelings about body image. It also exposed them to the thoughts and feelings of others. For the most part students in our group expressed feeling good about their bodies.
Positive Self-Talk We introduced positive self-talk as a strategy for managing negative ideations about body image. Each member of the group practiced positive self-talk by using affirmation statements in the mirror. This was very difficult for some students, even with the scripts. This may be because they didn’t understand the “why” behind the activity. This activity exposed them to a strategy for promoting a healthy body image and gave students an opportunity to practice that strategy.
Role Play Because we know that often, negative thoughts and feelings about body image occur while we are with groups of people, we role played using positive self-talk when in a group. This was essentially an extension of the previous activity but we made the task slightly more difficult.
Self-Portraits Body image is one of those topics that is not just about learning facts but mostly about self-awareness and self-expression. In addition to teaching some concrete strategies for promoting positive body image, we also wanted to provide opportunities to explore thoughts and feelings about appearance. The self-portraits were another strategy for helping students explore their thoughts and feelings about body image. For the most part, the kids were really excited about this activity. We promoted trying to reflect a positive self image, but this didn’t come naturally to all the students. We also wanted to make sure we respected the right for students to express their genuine emotions.
Just a note on classroom management. Distractions were down with the implementation of our simple rights and responsibilities, more firm “nos” and the stop sign. We did have one student who had a hard time because they had to wait until next week to take the pictures home so the paint could dry. This is something to anticipate for the future.
Materials for this week…
Hygiene is not on the SEICUS guidelines for what to teach in a human sexuality class, but we find that it can be a hard topic for students. It also is strongly connected to puberty because it is during puberty that hygiene needs change at the same time young people have more autonomy and responsibility for their hygiene. We tackled hygiene with a series of activities we called hygiene Olympics. In small groups, students moved throughout the stations to practice and contemplate hygiene tasks.
- Hand washing: Students rubbed glitter mixed with lotion on their hands and then had to wash their hands until the glitter came off. This will helped students to recognize that hand washing is more than just rinsing hands lightly with water.
- Body washing: We will had life-size body outlines, loofas, and paint. Students used the paint like it was soap. This helped students recognize the importance of washing their entire body.
- Laundry: Students saw a pile of laundry. They then sorted the clean from the dirty clothing (the dirty clothing are just tee shirts that have been dampened and wrinkled). The helped students identify clean clothing.
- Shaving: Students used an orange to practice shaving with a razor and shaving cream. The teacher in the group explained that boys often shave their face and that girls often shave their legs and underarms. Students had an opportunity to practice shaving.
- Deodorant testing: We had several deodorants with the brands blocked out. Students smelled and voted on their favorite scent. At this station, teachers pointed out the importance of wearing deodorant each day and reapplying after activities that cause sweat. This station emphasized the importance of deodorant use.
- My Hygiene Routine: Students saw pictures of different hygiene tasks. They also had a worksheet that said “My Hygiene Routine.” Students chose what order they would prefer to complete the hygiene tasks. This activity provided students with control and choice while also committing them to completing the necessary tasks.
Materials for this week
For the final session of Human Sexuality 101 we reviewed what we learned during the class. Overall, students seemed to enjoy the class and learn something. The students also seemed to like each other. Sexuality is a social topic, so I was excited that students were able to share and connect throughout the class.
Vote with Your Feet: We printed ‘true’ and ‘false’ on sheets on the opposite sides of the room. When presented with true/false statements, participants chose the correct response. We specifically chose items that we knew were difficult for students. Then we switched to agree/disagree. This allowed us to touch upon the difference between facts and opinions. We also had students make their own statements. They did a great job.
Booklets: We passed out booklets to the participants that reviewed all the information we covered and had additional activities for them to do at home. We did complete an evaluation, but I don’t think it was very successful. I’d consider the evaluation to still be “under construction.”
Social Signals ($159.oo) is a series of videos and curriculum are designed to teach adolescent students with autism and intellectual disability about safe relationship skills. There is also a parent curriculum for $23.99. They have a sample video and lesson available for free so you can preview before you purchase. I liked the video. I like to teach about expected and unexpected behaviors and I think these videos could be a good tool. There are also sample lessons that accompany the videos.
I’ve been working on a training for parents who are primarily Spanish speakers so I’ve been looking for materials available in Spanish. I hit the jackpot when I translated my search terms into Spanish. I thought you might be interested in my Spanish Resource List.
Free Resources in Spanish Specific to Youth with Disabilities
Books in Spanish and English Specific to Youth with Disabilities
Free Parent Resources in Spanish and English not Specific to Youth with Disabilities
Living Safer Sexual Lives is a training pack available for purchase ($57.23) for those of you who may be doing training on human sexuality and disabilities. I have not personally used their materials, but it was developed in a very interesting way and it’s not very expensive so I thought I’d pass it along. A research group in Australia interviewed several people with intellectual disability about their sexual lives and then used their stories to develop this training. The training is targeted toward parents, professionals, and self advocates. The training pack has three parts: introduction, training, and resources (including a DVD of people with intellectual disability telling their stories).
You can read the full report which outlines the findings from the interviews and how they used the interviews to shape the training. The report also includes accounts from people with disabilities about their sexuality.
The key themes that emerged from the stories were:
- Diversity and similarity. Diversity within the lives of the story-tellers and similarities between needs and desires of this group and other adults.
- The issues of rights and sexuality.
- The hidden nature of people’s sexual lives.
- Celebration of sexuality and relationships.
- Gender issues.
- Loneliness and rejection.
No, these aren’t the circles we usually talk about related to levels of intimacy and based on the Circles curriculum. These circles developed by Dr. Dennis Dailey, focus on Sensuality, Sexualization, Intimacy, Sexual Identity, and Sexual Health. I think these might make a good framework for a 5 module course or could be used to introduce the concept of sexuality. Click here for a full explanation of The Circles of Sexuality.
Courtesy of Indiana University
Thank you to the folks at TAP in Rockford for bringing this curriculum to my attention!
“Intimate Relationships and Sexual Health” is a curriculum written by Catherine Davies and Melissa Dubie who are affiliated with the Indian Resource Center for Autism.
“Intimate Relationships and Sexual Health” is geared toward folks who are pretty independent and have few intellectual impairments, so it’s not for everyone. But they do do a nice job of showing how to think about lesson planning that would apply to anybody. You can see a fair amount of the curriculum on Amazon to see if it might work for you.
A lot of the curriculum we used for the puberty unit of our Human Sexuality 101 group was adapted from “Teaching Sexual Health“. They are a group out of Canada that provides support for teachers and parents. I used their general curriculum but they also have a curriculum for students of differing ability levels. They have great resources for parents including “webisodes” that give examples of parents talking to kids about sexuality topics. The website is very well organized and easy to use!