Sexuality and Disability is a free blog dedicated to providing a resource for women with disabilities. The blog answers questions pertaining to sex, the body, relationships, and more in a safe and open discussion. The welcome statement of the website encompasses this;
“Our site starts with the premise that people with disabilities are sexual beings – just like anyone else. sexualityanddisability.org is constructed as a bunch of questions a woman with a disability might have – about her body, about the mechanics and dynamics of having sex, about the complexities of being in an intimate relationship or having children, about unvoiced fears or experiences of encountering abuse in some form.”
Sexuality and Disability also includes an award-winning section that appeals to many individuals with disabilities that contains stories from the point of view of an individual with a disability and gives an in depth and realistic view on sexual topics.
From the Publishers:
Key social and emotional milestones during adolescence are often directly related to the abilities to initiate and maintain intimate relationships, maintain physically maturing bodies, and manage personal sexuality. Most adolescents with developmental disabilities have particular difficulty expressing sexuality in satisfying ways, consequently facing issues such as limited intimate relationships, low self-esteem, increased social isolation, deregulated emotional maintenance, reduced sexual functioning, and limited sexual health.
Appropriate sexual knowledge assists not only in achieving personal fulfillment, but protection from mistreatment, abuse, unplanned pregnancies, or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It also works to help solve problems of loneliness and problems with self-esteem.
This book will address this but also much more. Issues of physical and cognitive development will be discussed, including appropriate sexual development/urges and brain development, and innate similarities and differences of sexuality that could occur between people with autism spectrum disorders and intellectual or developmental disabilities, including the complexities of physical disabilities. The authors will also consider special considerations for group homes and recreational facilities, and specifically focus on concepts of ethics and models of consent (medical, legal, social, and educational), as well as how to deal with uncertainty.
The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) was originally developed at UCLA by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson, Founder and Director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic, and Dr. Fred Frankel in 2005 and has expanded to locations across the United States and the world. PEERS is a manualized, social skills training intervention for youth with social challenges.
There are four options for getting training in PEERS. (1) The PEERS Certified Training Seminar last two days and is hosted at UCLA. It is designed specifically for mental health professionals and educators interested in learning and/or implementing the PEERS intervention into their clinical practice. (2) PEERS provides off-site training seminars, presentations or talks for a variety of agencies based on their specific needs. These may range from 1-4 days, with varying costs. (3) The PEERS Certified School-based Training for Educators is designed exclusively for teachers, school psychologists, counselors, speech and language pathologists, administrators, and school-based professionals who are interested in learning to implement The PEERS Curriculum for School-based Professionals. Attendees will obtain 24 hours of training over 3 days and this training also takes place at UCLA. And (4) PEERS provides off-site School-based training seminars, presentations or talks for a variety of agencies based on their specific needs. These may range from 1-4 days, with varying costs.
The PEERS program naturally lends itself to sex ed instruction. For example, the adolescent program focuses on
- How to use appropriate conversational skills
- How to find common interests by trading information
- How to appropriately use humor
- How to enter and exit conversations between peers
- How to be a good host during get-togethers
- How to make phone calls to friends
- How to choose appropriate friends
- How to be a good sport
- How to handle arguments and disagreements
- How to change a bad reputation
- How to handle rejection, teasing, and bullying
- How to handle rumors and gossip
This video features a program that uses PEERS for sex ed
The 1 hour and 13 minute movie, Autism in Love, is about falling in love, wanting to fall in love, the struggle of understanding love, and heartbreak. More than that, this movie is about what it means to be autistic, how love shapes identity, and the support of family. There are multiple viewing options but it is currently airing for free on Independent Lens. It follows the stories of four individuals on the autism spectrum as they navigate issues of love and relationships.
Here is a guide for using the film as a teaching tool: Autism in Love Viewing Guide
This movie is more geared toward adults as the youngest person featured in the film is in his early 20s and much of the film centers on marriage. If you were working with older teens, you may want to focus on Lenny.
This tool kit from ATN/AIR-P provides information on body changes; self-care and hygiene; public vs. private rules; staying safe: strangers, secrets and touch; elopement; safety planning for increased aggression; and Internet safety.
Some of my favorite features:
- Link to underwear designed to keep menstrual pads in place (I had no idea this existed!)
- They have parent stories throughout.
- They have suggestions for how occupational therapy can provide support.
This publication was developed and written by Vanderbilt Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND). There is a boy version and girl version. Each version has a booklet for parents or teachers and supplemental materials which include storyboards and visuals that you can use in implementing the methods outlined in the toolkit. It is free and there is a Spanish version!
Here is the website: https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/HealthyBodies/
Anatomy and Reproduction were the topics for week 2. We started off the session with a game called “Parts and Post-it Notes” to talk about body parts with the participants. To play this game we had a giant piece of paper with the outline of a body on it. We gave the participants post-it notes to write down the body parts that they knew and asked them to place them on the outline of the body.
After this activity, the participants were told that for the rest of the class they would be focusing on body parts related to reproduction (another way to refer to sex organs or private parts). The participants were then directed to the next activity where they practiced saying terminology related to reproduction out loud and recording their responses to how saying the words made them feel.
When the participants finished the terminology activity, we spit them into two groups to start the fruit anatomical model of reproductive organs using fruit. The participants were shown a picture of the parts of the body and were giving tooth picks and flash cards to label the fruit parts and their functions. This activity was great for the participants to learn the vocabulary in a little abstract and safe way! For a more concrete example of reproduction, we used the “Miracle of Life” video to explain the process.
We ended this session by having the participants briefly summarize that they learned during the session.
For more information on anatomy view our Human Sexuality 101 Week 2- Anatomy, EXPLAINING ANATOMY, YOUTUBE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES: HEALTHCHANNEL, SEXPLANATIONS, AND CSPH, ADULT HUMAN SEXUALITY WEEK 2- ANTATOMY & REPRODUCTION posts
This Week’s Materials
Week 2 Lesson Plan
Week 2 Slides
During week 4, we focused on understanding crushes.
There were three activities for the participants this week:
What is a crush?
The participants first brainstormed things that a person with a crush might feel or think. Participants had different levels of understanding on what having a crush meant to them. The purpose of this activity was to help the participants to understand that crushes are a special set of thoughts and feelings about another person. We later discussed thoughts and ideas that the group may have that may be unsafe when it comes to having a crush.
How to deal with a crush?
We used three videos to help the participants to understand how to deal with a crush. The videos covered these topics: What if you like a friend, How to tell if a guy likes you, and How to get a guys attention. These videos give concrete ways to deal with a crush.
Turning someone down
We used a video about how to say no to deal with a variety of situations when it comes to turning someone down.
For more information and activities on crushes visit our Human Sexuality 101 Week 5- Crushes and Adult Human Sexuality Week 3- Crushes curriculum
This Week’s Material
Week 4 Powerpoint
Intimacy was the focus of week 5. This concept can be difficult to understand because it is very broad so this is how we talked about it in our class.
We talked about how intimacy can be divided into two parts: physical and emotional. Physical intimacy involves expressing ones feelings for another person through a physical manner (holding hands, hugging, kissing, and sexual activity). While emotional intimacy involves the feelings towards another person. It is based on how comfortable you are with someone and how much you can share with them. It is important to understand that there are levels to intimacy and that it is not necessarily just for two people in a dating relationship.
For this week’s activities, we opened up with a discussion on the numerous ways to have intimacy with someone. During group time, our plan was for participants to create a “Intimacy Chart”.
We provided them with pictures displaying different types of intimacy ( holding hands, hugging, etc.) and asked them to write down how each of the pictures made them feel. After that we arranged the picture in order to what we felt would be the natural progression of relationships. To finish off the activity we categorized each picture based on whom we are comfortable doing those actions with. The main purpose of the “Intimacy Chart” is to help the participants to visualize the different types of intimacy.
Although this was the plan, one of our students had a different idea of how she should do this activity. She asked for a folder and then decorated it with her boyfriends name. She then put the different acts of intimacy she felt comfortable with in the folder. At first, she didn’t want to share which behaviors she had chosen, but then she decided that she would share. What a great spontaneous adaption!
For more information on intimacy visit our Intimacy Activities and Adult Human Sexuality Week 6- Physical Intimacy and Human Sexual Response
This Week’s Material
Parent Letter Week 5
Here are videos that were developed for 10 – 17 year olds on the autism spectrum regarding puberty & other sexuality topics. They are clear, concrete, and move through the material slowly (this is one of the biggest problems with videos for a general audience- they go too fast!)
My favorite thing about the videos is that the male instructor is an individual with autism.
All of the videos can be found on www.coultervideo.com, a website that sells videos by Dan & Julie Coulter. Dan & Julie are parents of a son with ASD who started creating educational videos on their vacation and now do it full time.
Videos that may be useful:
This activity can be used to teach about different intimate activities, either alone or with a partner. All of the actions come in a word list form and in a visual form. The activity includes a continuum worksheet in which activities can be classified as “less intimate” and “more intimate”.
One way to use this activity is to teach what sex is. We often assume that people understand what sex is, but people have difficulty with understanding sex even when it is explained. First list the acts of intimacy in a continuum and then discuss “where sex starts” or “which activities are sex and which ones are not. This is more difficult than it seems. For example, it is not uncommon for students to start with thinking that “kissing above the waist over the clothes” is sex. When we teach this activity, we encourage students to express their own understanding of what is more or less intimate but because the concept of a spectrum is difficult, we guide them at the anchors of what is the most inmate and least intimate. By seeing sex in the context of different sexual activities it helps fill in some of the gaps.
Instead of a continuum you could use categories- the categories we use help reinforce the idea of a continuum as well. There is also a list of different levels of intimacy that can be used to classify these activities. Using the activity in this way is consistent with the concept of postponement- postponing intercourse until a relationship is more serious of formalized.
Sometimes when people see all the different acts of intimacy they are surprised but it is important to be inclusive of all different forms of sexual expression. We also don’t use all the different acts with every group, but we’ve given you a pretty comprehensive list that you can tailor to meet your student or child’s needs.
Download the intimacy activity intimacy activity pictures or with just words.
Levels of Intimacy
The focus of week 6 was to better understand power relationships. During this week, the participants worked together on a activity that helped them to learn about power and control in relationships and specifically the benefits of having more power, benefits of having less power, drawbacks to having more power, and the drawbacks to having less power. The main concept that we were teaching with this activity is that there should be a balance when it comes to power. We first brainstormed ideas on what it meant to have power in a relationship. After that, the participants discussed how different situations could be red flags that a relationship is not safe and we had them place those on the outside of the circle. We superimposed a circle onto our original brainstorming to reinforce this concept (using the powerpoint project and a dry erase board).
At the end of group we played a “Would you Rather” game to help them tune into how much power and control they prefer to have in relationships. Students are asked about different relationships where there is a power difference (eg. parent-child). If they would prefer the more powerful option they take a step forward, the less and they stand still. In my experience, individuals with disabilities are much more likely to choose a majority of less powerful positions in relationships. Food for thought.
For more information and activities on this topic see Adult Human Sexuality Week 5- Power Relationships
This Week’s Materials
Week 6 Slides
Parent Letter Week 6
YouTube has a lost of great sexuality education resources but it can be hard to find among all of the “not safe for work” content. Here’s a few channels and videos that might be useful. One of the most difficult tasks sex educators report is explaining intimate acts. This can be uncomfortable and difficult so I’ve tried to focus on these difficult to teach topics. The videos may not be the best fit for the person/people you’re working with, but they can give you an idea where to start. The channels also have great resources for expanding your own education on sexuality topics.
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH) has a lot of great videos. Is one of my favorite cites. In addition to having direct information they also have videos for parents (“Use Your Words” videos).
Healthchannel is a YouTube channel with short videos on a variety of health care issues including sexual health resources including a few I’ve listed below. The videos aren’t prefect. They don’t feature animations with people with disabilities and focus on heterosexual couples, but they give very precise, clear information.
Sexplanations is another YouTube channel. They have mini episodes on human sexuality topics from shared sexual behavior to STDs to anatomy. Again the videos aren’t perfect. They move a little too quickly than I would like, but I’ve selected a few I think could be helpful. They could also be good to expand your own understanding of various topics.