New Study: Factors that Impact Support Workers’ Perceptions of Adults with Developmental Disabilities

sedi_26_4_oc.qxpA new study by Amanda Saxe and Tara Flanagan looked at the attitudes of support workers in terms sexuality and disability.  This study examined 25 university students who had experience as support workers in Canada (either as ABA therapists, Aids, teachers, or consultants).  They found that students with no religious affiliation and who were more advanced students had more liberal views.  When they said “more liberal” they meant more accepting of sex ed, masturbation, sexual feelings, relationships, intercourse, parenthood, and marriage and less accepting of serialization.  Support workers were not biased against homosexuality per se, but they did indicate that anal sex is the least acceptable form of sexual expression for adults with developmental disabilities.  In this study, training as a sexuality educator was not related to attitudes about sexuality and disability.

This article is not available for free on the web, but you may be able to view a summary.

Thinking About Starting Your Own Online Program?

online family life educationI recently did a presentation at the Illinois Council on Family Relations (ILCFR).  I thought I’d share that presentation with you.  I hope you find it useful.  It’s about the framework I’ve used to design this website.  The framework is based on the one that was published in the Journal of Family Relations by Hughes, Bowers, Thomann Mitchell, Curtiss (me), and Ebata.   Feel free to contact me if you would like more information on developing an online program.  The link takes you to the presentation in an interactive format or you can view it as a pdf: Interactive or PDF.

New Research Regarding Autism and Sexuality

Sandra Byers, Shana Nicholas, Susan Voyer, and Georgianna Reilly have an paper coming out in Austim this month.  They survied 141 men and women with “high functioning autism and/or Aspergers syndrome” (AQ score of 26 or greater) about their sexual wellbeing.  You can read the abstract of the article for free or pay for the entire article but I’ve summarized the interesting findings below.

Gender Differences:  The men had greater sexual well being but less sexual knowledge.  They weren’t different in all areas; for example, they were the same in terms of sexual activity and sexual self esteem.  They were different in areas such as arousability and sexual desires (this is pretty consistent with neurotypical gender differences).

Autism Symptomatology: Folks who reported less autism symptomatology had better sexual well being but not necessarily more sexual activity (both with partners and alone).  The folks who reported more autism symptomatology reported more difficulty with the other parts of sexual life like assertiveness and desire.

Relationship Status: Folks in romantic relationships relationships  reported better sexual well being.  Everyone in the study had been in a relationship at some point so this is comparing the folks currently in a relationship from those not in a relationship at this time.

So how did they define sexual well being?  

The looked at sexual well being in two main domains: dyadic (with another) and solitary (on your own).  In these domains they examined affection, genital activity, sexual assertiveness, sexual satisfaction, arousability, sexual desire, sexual thoughts, sexual anxiety, and sexual problems.

One of the take home recommendations for education relates to the two domains.  These reachers highlighted the importance of sexuality education that teaches about partnered sexual expression and solitary sexual expression.  They also recommended that sexuality education specifically focus on developing a positive sexual self-image.  I can’t disagree with them there!

Sexuality and Intellectual/Developmental Disability Community Forum

I just wanted to share this upcoming event with you (Friday, April 13th from 12:00-3:30).  It looks really interesting.  The Sexuality and Disability Consortium (SDC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago is hosting a roundtable discussion and a presentation by Linda Sandman, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director of the Developmental Disabilities Family Clinics on…

Successes and Challenges:Sexuality Education with People with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities.

After the main discussion you can choose to attend one of several roundtable discussions on the following topics • Sexual self-advocacy • How to talk to families about sexuality • Why is sexuality education important in my agency • Sharing sexuality education resources

The cost is only $10 and self advocates are welcome.

If you can’t make, don’t worry.  I’ll post an update on what I learn.

For Parents

In a parent focus group* on the topic of sexuality and their children with ASD several interesting themes emerged: parents struggle with what healthy sexuality looks like in their child with ASD, they feel their child’s social impairments make many sexuality topics difficult to understand, they feel the community does not understand the sexuality needs of their child, and they feel unprepared to support their child with their sexuality need.

Does that sound like you?

These researchers made several suggestions for parents.  Although they were focused on children with ASD, I think this would be applicable for almost all children.  I think they are also good things for professionals to keep in mind too!

1) Lean about sexuality and ASD as well as sexual development in general.

2) Think about your hopes and fears for your child.  Also think about your own experiences learning about sexuality.

3) Set goals for your child (and I would maybe modify, to the degree that they are able, with your child).

4) Think about the method to communicate these messages to your child.

5)  Coordinate with schools, physicians, ect.

I have found a book that may be useful called “Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: A Parent’s Guide to the Cognitive, Social, Physical, and Transition Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders “.  You can get a pretty good preview on google books to make sure it is right for you.  I like it because it talks about ASD in general and then weaves in topics related to puberty.  It also thinks about changes from multiple domains.  For example, one suggestion was realizing your teen might need more control and finding ways to incorporate that into his or her daily life.

This tip sheet from the Better Health Channel may also be helpful: Sex education for children with intellectual disabilities – tips for parents – Better Health Channel

*Only a short preview of this article is available for free online.  Although the entire article is available for purchase it is written for an academic audience.