Dr. Curtiss was invited to the Center of Disability Studies at the University of Delaware to present on Sexual Consent and Disability. Participants learned what sexual consent is from a sexual health perspective and a legal perspective. They also learned important considerations when teaching consent and how teaching consent promotes sexual safety.
When Dr. Curtiss talks about teaching sexual consent she discussed four main skills: Saying No, Recognizing No, Respecting No, and Saying Yes. To say No, you need to be able to say NO with different levels of intensity, to have multiple strategies for saying NO, a be able to say NO in a variety of contexts including online. To be able to recognize No, you need to be able to recognize verbal, non-vebal, and contextual NO as well as NO by omission. To be able to respect NO you need to have self-regulation skills to manage emotional reaction to hearing NO. To be able to say YES, you need to understand what feel comfortable.
Bedsider posted an article titled “What You Should Know About Birth Control When You Have a Disability.” The article discusses how to talk with your healthcare provider and find the right birth control for yourself.
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation* has a list of things you should consider before going on birth control. This source is specifically for people with Cerebral Palsy.
TASCC (Talking About Sexuality in Canadian Communities) is a resource for people with disabilities in Canada, but the information is also applicable to people in other countries. The source shares different methods of preventing pregnancy and how birth control can prevent STIs.
Planned Parenthood shares 18 methods of birth control and provides information on how they work. You can search for contraception based on how well they prevent pregnancy, help with periods, prevent STDs, whether or not they use hormones, and how easy they are to use. Planned Parenthood also includes a range of prices for each birth control method.
Alaska: Olmstead Rights shares a list of resources and advocacy organizations in Alaska. The resources are directed towards individuals with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and mental illness.
Arizona:Special Olympics Arizona offers a list of resources for individuals with disabilities who want to learn more about health and wellness.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Disability Coalition is an organization that helps families and individuals with disabilities by providing health-related support, information, and resources.
California: Disability Without Abuse Project is dedicated to spreading awareness about abuse faced by individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. They offer resources, a newsfeed, and a blog for people who are interested in learning more.
Connecticut:The Center for Relationship and Sexuality Education strives to make sexual health information more accessible for members of the intellectual and developmental disability community. They provide learning materials and professional development programs.
Illinois:Community Choices supports individuals with disabilities in the process of filling medications, scheduling and going to appointments, and connecting with health representatives.
Indiana: Indiana Institute on Disability and Community has a feature on their website where you can input information to find resources specific to your situation. They also offer training and workshops and other opportunities to become involved in the community.
Louisiana: Green Clinic offers resources for dating violence and sexual assault, and sexual health. They also share resources for STI testing.
Maine: MomentumRELATE offers education, dialogue, advocacy, and training for people with disabilities. They are committed to helping people develop a healthy and positive understanding of sexuality and relationships.
Maryland: Respectability offers general sexuality resources for members of the disability community. Some of the topics they includes resources for are masturbation, hygiene and self care, puberty, and relationships.
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services collaborated to create a guide on healthy relationships and sexuality.
Minnesota:Family Tree Clinic offers a wide range of services including birth control, annual exams, trans hormone care, STI testing and treatment, and Rapid HIV testing. They also offer a health education program for members of the community who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing.
Mississippi: The Arc focuses on respect, abilities, freedom of choice, and inclusion. They provide resources for people with disabilities regarding self-advocacy.
Missouri:SHADE (Sexual Health and Disability Education) teaches sexual education to people with disabilities. They have a newsletter, resources, and guides for supplemental information.
Nebraska: Munroe-Meyer Institute has a team of occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and recreational therapists who offer sexual health services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Nevada:Planned Parenthood offers comprehensive sex education and services for individuals with disabilities.
New Hampshire: Disability Rights Center – NH offers information and assistance regarding Medicaid and healthcare, access and accommodations, and general health.
New Hampshire: Elevatus Training is an organization that offers extensive information about navigating sexuality as a person with a disability.
New Jersey:The Division of Disability Services in the Department of Human Services collaborates with health educators, policy makers, and experts in the field of health to create an inclusive setting for people with disabilities to learn about sexual health.
New Jersey: A.S.C.O.T. Counseling offers presentations and counseling on subjects like autism and sexuality, and the experiences women on the spectrum have.
North Dakota:My Ally Health is a reproductive health clinic. They assure that their services are available to anyone regardless of disability status, race, sex, religion, or economic status.
Ohio:The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council has meetings, sends newsletters, holds events, and offers resources about health for people with disabilities. One of their previous events involved a discussion about healthy romantic relationships and sexuality in the I/DD community!
Pennsylvania: Positive Approaches Journal was published by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The journal features research and information on sexuality, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and relationships.
Rhode Island:Zencare is a resource that connects people with disabilities with sex therapists in the area.
South Carolina:United Spinal Association is a source for people with spinal cord injuries or disorders. They provide tips for patients and discuss how to plan for a doctor visit.
South Carolina:Able South Carolina is a community-based nonprofit that offers a variety of services for individuals with disabilities.
South Dakota:Bridging South Dakota is a program that offers support for people with disabilities who are survivors of sexual assault.
South Dakota: Planned Parenthood provides a variety of services, such as abortion, birth control, pregnancy testing and services, and STD testing and treatment.
Tennessee:Tennessee Disability Services offers a list of resources on dating and romantic relationships, targeted towards individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Tennessee: Autism Tennessee offers occasional events that involve discussions about relationships and sex. Their Sexual Identity & Inclusion Alliance facilitator is very passionate about creating equal access to information for everyone.
Texas: Planned Parenthood provides a variety of services, such as abortion, birth control, pregnancy testing and services, and STD testing and treatment.
Texas:Navigate Life Texas is a resource for parents of children with disabilities. They offer tips on discussing puberty and sexuality, how to talk to the doctor, and more.
Virginia: Disability-inclusive Sexual Health Network (DSHN) connects and supports youths with disabilities in Virginia through sexual education. They have a youth advisory board, resources, and plenty of ways to get involved on their website.
Washington:The Arc of King County shares resources on relationships, sexuality, and gender. Their goal is to ensure that everyone gets equal access to sexual health information.
Washington: The University of Washington has compiled a list of resources on sexuality and relationships for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism.
While pregnancy is usually an exciting time, it can also be intimidating. There is a lot to know about being pregnant and having a child as a person with a disability, and luckily there are resources available to help!
The National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities is a collaborative research and advocacy project that aims to help parents with disabilities. The website includes a “data hub” with tips and information for people who are considering having a child, people who are pregnant, and people who already are already parents.
Disabled Parenting Project is a branch of the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities. The project is dedicated to allowing people with disabilities to share their experiences and receive advice.
The University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities created a guide* for people who identify as a pregnant woman with a developmental disability. It includes information on finding accessible healthcare providers, building a support network, and self-advocating during medical visits.
Bump’n is a brand that was created to make sexual pleasure more accessible. All of their content and products are co-created by a team who aims to inspire people to talk more openly about sexuality and disability.
The Bump’n Joystick is a sex toy that does not require you to use your hands! The Joystick has different sized holes in its base for you to insert your favorite toys. You simply hug the top of the toy or lay on it, and it does the work for you!
This toy is currently available for preorder for $249 on the Bump’n website!
Advocates for Youth is an organization that is dedicated to improving sexual and reproductive health among adolescents and securing the rights of young people.
Advocates for Youth recognizes that sex education should equip people with tools to make informed decisions about sex and relationships, instead of withholding information and telling young people not to have sex.
The organization works with AMAZE to publish animated videos that provide children and adolescents with accessible and age-appropriate sexual information. More information about AMAZE can be found here.
Advocates for Youth offers a K-12 sex education curriculum specifically for students with intellectual disabilities that includes all of the topics the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled as essential. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of rights, respect, and responsibility, and covers topics such as gender identity, race, and healthy relationships. This curriculum can be found on the Advocates for Youth website, linkedhere.
In addition to making efforts to improve sexual education in the classroom, Advocates for Youth hosts virtual and in-person events for people interested in learning more! Some of their previous events involved discussions about STIs, abortion, and consent.
It is difficult to determine the exact risk of sexual abuse for individuals with ASD. For one thing, reports of sexual abuse in the general population can vary widely. The first national survey reports victimization rates of 27% for women and 16% of men (Finkelhor et al., 1990)*- and many studies seem to report findings similar to this. A study has shown that children with disabilities are 1.7 times more likely to experience sexual abuse (Crosse, Kaye & Ratnofsky, 1993)*. In this study all children with disabilities were examined, not just individuals with ASD . Individuals who are caregiver dependent may be at the highest risk as family members, family acquaintances, and paid caregivers are the most likely to commit sexual abuse (Mansell et al., 1996)*. Difficulties communicating, lack of knowledge of sexual norms and activities, and isolation may contribute to increased risk of sexual abuse among individuals with ASD.
So what can you so? Here are 5 places to start.
Have a clear reporting procedure of any suspected incidences of abuse or neglect and use it!
Don’t hug, kiss, hold hands, snuggle or in other ways compromise professional boundaries. Not only does this potentially mask dangerous “grooming” by sexual predators, it also communicates that individuals with disabilities are asexual.
Sexuality education 🙂 may provide opportunities to for individuals to be better able to communicate and better understand social norms and activities thus giving them tools to better understand if abuse may be taking place.
Teach folks to say no! When we don’t provide structured opportunities for people to say no, then when they need to they don’t know how.
Don’t let sex be a taboo. If everyone is afraid to talk about it, they will be afraid when there is a problem also. Also, perpetrators will be deterred by the open communication.
The Department of Human Services in Illinois is targeting ending violence against women with disabilities. Click here to learn more!
*Link takes you to an abstract of the original article.
Making decisions about dating can be tough, especially if you don’t really know what types of decisions to make. This graphic can be used to help steer the conversation about dating and how to make healthy decisions. It is available for download here.
Rewire News Group is a news website that is focused on sexual health and social justice. They are looking to “reshape the national dialogue on all things sex by making it more inclusive, positive, and centered on social justice.” The website itself is not focused on intellectual disabilities, however, they do offer some amazing articles about issues in the disability community.
The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods is a comprehensive guide for people ages 9-16. This book covers the basics of menstruation and offers direct advice on what exactly to expect when you start your period. On top of this, it provides advice for everyone, not just the person menstruating. This book offers advice to the parents or caregivers, and alleviates some anxiety that people face when asking for help. This book was created in consultation with young people and doctors, so it’s a great resource.
The author of The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods, Robyn Steward, is Autistic herself, and made this book accessible and as inclusive as possible. This book is written in plain language, is straightforward, and suits the needs of Autistic individuals. The book offers step-by-step photos and instructions on how to change pads/tampons, and discusses alternatives to those. She also highlights what may be sensory issues for autistic people.
It’s extremely important for Autistic individuals (and those around them) to have a plan for handling menstruation. Someone’s first period can be a stressful, painful, and anxiety-inducing experience. Stress can be planned for an alleviated with careful education and preparation. This book is a fantastic resource and a great way to open up conversation about periods. For more information on planning for menstruation, check here: https://asdsexed.org/2012/06/08/menstruation-plan-26/
The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) was founded by parents and grandparents. OAR strives to use science to address social, educational, and treatment concerns in the Autism community. Their mission is to fund research, provide useful information and resources to the community, as well as hold programs to improve quality of life for individuals with Autism.
The OAR has put together an online guide for sexuality and sex ed. This guide is self-paced and intended for people on the Autism Spectrum aged 15 and older. This guide consists of nine modules: Public vs Private, Puberty, Healthy Relationships, Consent, Dating 101, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity, Am I Ready?, Sexual Activity, Online Relationships and Safety. Each module consists of a video overview and 10-15 smaller sections.
This guide is completely free and can be accessed at the link below:
While the mainstream is becoming increasingly aware and accepting of disabilities, there is still a lack of representation. People with both physical and intellectual disabilities rarely ever see people like them in books, movies, on TV, or in many other forms of entertainment. On top of this, resources regarding sexual health, relationships, and puberty for disabled individuals practically don’t exist.
Woodbine House is a publishing company that specializes in informational books for individuals with intellectual disabilities. They have many books aimed at all different age groups that provide information on an array of topics pertaining to disabilities. On their website, they have different sections for Down Syndrome, Autism, and ADHD/ADD. Some of their sexual health based books include: Teaching Children With Down Syndrome About Their Bodies, Boundaries and Sexuality, Boyfriends & Girlfriends: A Guide to Dating for People with Disabilities, and A Boys/Girls Guide to Growing Up. These books help teach people to identify body parts, how to identify/express emotions, personal hygiene, dealing with puberty, relationship safety and many other things.
Every one of their books features people with the disability they’re discussing, and they provide accurate and accessible books for all ages. These books are non-clinical and easy to read, and they are intended for everyday use. On top of this, they’re extremely accessible and informational. This company consistently provides parents and children with informational books that are practical, empathetic and empowering, and they push disabled issues into the public eye. It is a great example of increasing representation and inclusivity in media!
Elevatus offers a variety trainings staff, direct support professionals, educators, self-advocates and parents to teach sexuality education to children and adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to their trainings, Elevatus has a sex education curriculum that can be purchased.
Here are examples of some of their trainings and the costs:
For Staff and Professionals – Developmental Disabilities and Sexuality 101 ($397)
For Parents/Guardians – Talking With Your Kids: Developmental Disability and Sexuality ($47)
In-service/live workshops and a 3-Day Certificate Training ($725) for anyone who wants to lead sexuality education classes with people with developmental disabilities.
In a world of increasing accessibility, more and more clothing brands have begun producing products with accessible modifications. Unfortunately, undergarments and lingerie are important categories often forgotten. Individuals with disabilities are sexual beings and have the right to feel confident in their own bodies just as able-bodied individuals, and accessible underwear is a major factor in this.
In order to shine a light on these hidden categories, it is important to understand what accessible undergarments aim to do. Accessible underwear provides clothing that can be used by individuals with disabilities; Understanding that not everyone can use common closures or typical underwear styles. Accessible lingerie is also a growing category.
Slick Chicks, a growing adaptive underwear business, is a prime example of a company combatting this issue and empowering individuals with disabilities. The company sells a variety of accessible underwear and includes many images and videos to show just how easy it is to use their garments. They are specialized for women who may be in wheelchairs or have limited mobility but can be used to improve the accessibility of underwear for many individuals.
Another excellent resource is Devovere, an Etsy shop, aiming to provide lingerie that is made for you. Through custom orders an individual can request front-facing closures or adjusters, velcro closings rather than clips or buttons, extra fastenings, and more for no extra price. The owner of the company identifies as disabled and has set out to make inclusive clothing.