Privacy Activity

Teaching and learning about privacy can be difficult and confusing. This activity uses a continuum of privacy  (using private, semi-private, and public) to help differentiate privacy levels. There are two topics: body parts and places. You can use this activity to explain different privacy levels and explain contextual differences (i.e. a stomach can be a public body part at the beach, but a private body part at school) . Download the privacy activity places and body parts here!

privacy pocketsprivacy continuum

Privacy Social Stories and Notes on Language

living well with autismI wanted to put you in touch with a website called “Living Well with Autism“.  They have several Board Maker Social Stories related to privacy.

Privacy Social StoryWhile I think overall this site has some nice ideas, I’d be careful about using “Good Touch Bad Touch”.  Good/Bad may bring up feelings of guilt, could be over generalized, and might be confusing as an assault often starts with touches that feel good then moves to touches that feel bad.  Also, there are some studies that have shown that children understand the word touch differently than adults.  For example they wouldn’t categorize people kissing as touching, because well, they’re kissing.  I think this could be a problem for someone with an intellectual disability that doesn’t categorize well.  I like the terms safe and unsafe touch.  I also like saying touching makes you feel something.  If a touch feels good, it’s probably safe.  If a touch doesn’t feel good it’s probably not safe.  Then you can teach specific kinds of touches.  Having said that, the site gives you some good Social Stories to start with.  Pictured left is part of one of their  stories.

Just another note on language.  There is a movement among abuse prevention advocates to alter some our terminology when talking about sexual abuse prevention.   I mention in my workshop that we have to be careful when talking about using education to help prevent sexual abuse because it implies that the individual is responsible for reducing his or her own risk.  Alternative terminology includes personal safety skills, abuse-response skills, or self-protection skills.

Hierarchy: Masturbation Training by Lisa Mitchell

Below is a “Hierarchy: Masturbation Training” by Lisa Mitchell, LCSW-R at Penn State.  Her plan for what she calls, “private touching”, was specifically developed for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, but I think it is a good general framework.  The hierarchy goes from lowest level of support to highest level of support.  Across the board, masturbation is a topic people want more information about.  I think this is a nice way to think about what kind of education or training is available as well as what you might want to try before moving on to something more intensive.  I have also included a link to her entire powerpoint.  She covers other topics/tips you may find interesting (relationship checklist, key concepts for topic areas, teaching techniques, problem behaviors).

  1. When appropriate, work with families and/or residence to establish a visual “private time schedule.”
  2. When appropriate, supply individual with lubricant, explaining that it is for use during “private time.”
  3. Meet with individual. Present illustrations of same sex persons masturbating, in conjunction with verbal explanation regarding technique.
  4. Meet with individual. Use illustrations and anatomical model in conjunction with verbal explanation of technique.
  5. Meet with individual. Use anatomically correct dolls to demonstrate appropriate masturbatory technique, in conjunction with verbal explanation.
  6. When appropriate, supply masturbatory aids such as body pillows, magazines, collages of stimulating pictures, vibrating pillows, masturbation sleeves, masturbation pumps, or vibrators. Explain safe usage of such aids.
  7. Meet with individual. Arrange for multiple viewings (when necessary) of instructional masturbation movies “Handmade Love” for males, or “Fingertips” for females. Viewings should occur in the individual’s bedroom or the private location where masturbation will be allowed to occur. Trainer may need to supply a verbal explanation while simultaneously viewing the tape to reinforce principles. (I would have the person watch on their own before feeling the need to view with another present. In general I think the videos are very good but very explicit. You could use the video in place of the verbal instructions indicated in the hierarchy).
  8. For individuals with more significant challenges, consider use of ABA type
    approach (preferably done with relatively unfamiliar trainer) to teach more
    successful masturbatory technique. Shape up steps one at a time (e.g. “Pull pants
    and underwear down”, “Lay on belly”, “Put pillow between legs”, “Rock from side to
    side”. Or “Pull pants down”, “Sit on bed”. “Put fingers around penis”, “Rub up and
    down, up and down.”) – I have heard of this method, but I do not know anyone personally who has ever instructed on masturbation at this level.  I would want to have a very comprehensive plan on how this would be implemented, full team support, and special attention paid to protecting the individual being instructed and the person doing the instruction.  

Introduction to Sexuality Education for Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind and Significantly Developmentally Delayed

I found this great (free) book online.  Although it targets parents, caregivers, and professionals who work with individuals who are deaf-blind and significantly developmentally delayed- you may find useful info even if this not your target population.  Kate Moss & Robbie Blaha’s overall approach to education considers four basic tools for instruction: routines, units, teachable moments, and behavior plans.  Chapters include …

Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – Sexuality Education
Chapter 3 – Developing an Instruction Plan
Chapter 4 – Modesty
Chapter 5 – Appropriate Touch and Personal Boundaries
Chapter 6 – Menstruation
Chapter 7 – Masturbation
Chapter 8 – Sexual Health Care
Chapter 9 – Sexual Abuse

I just want to highlight a couple of things I found particularly useful.  They provide instructions for developing a sexual education policy and provide a model policy as well as sample permission forms.  I also thought that their plan for supporting with menstruation was well thought out and useful.

There’s also the Texas School for the Blind and Visually-Impaired’s website, which offers some strategies for supporting and educating visually impaired individuals about many topics such as gender roles, social skills, personal safety, gender identity, sexual language, masturbation, and reproductive anatomy.

10 Easy Things You Can Do that Promote Privacy and Positive Relationships

Although this list can be used with any population, it is geared towards individuals who need a considerable amount of support. Many of these are probably things you already do!

1.  Prompt clients/consumers/students to greet one another.

I’m always surprised to realize that some people don’t know the names of the other people they spend time with each day.  A simple greeting is a wonderful, simple, social script that you have natural opportunities to practice each day.

2.  Ask permission or notify an individual before touching their person or their wheel chair.

This reinforces that an individual has control and autonomy over his or her own body.  It’s important for people to feel in control of their body so that they feel safe and also so they can keep others’ safe.  It also communicates that a person’s body is something that needs to be treated with respect.

3.  Keep all aspects of a personal care (toileting) routine private.

This means that you don’t follow behind someone with a Depends (or other personal care item)- use a bag.  It also means you don’t announce taking someone to the restroom to the group (say it quietly so only the person you are speaking to can hear).

4.  Do not speak negatively about clients/consumers/students in front of others – including saying they are having  behaviors.

People are very perceptive about when others are speaking negatively about them. When you say so and so is having behaviors it makes the situation very public, embarrasses the individual, and gives positive reinforcement (in the form of attention) to the behavior.  If for your safety you need to communicate this, use a code (In Champaign we would say “did you see the Illini’s defense last night?” which meant we are having a potentially dangerous behavior situation please hang out until all clear).

5.  Do not affectionately kiss, cuddle, or pat on the head clients/consumers/students.

In someways this is a no brainer and in other ways it is hard.  I know so many people who are touch deprived and it seems harmless to give someone a hug when you see them but these types of affection have several negative side effects.  1) They send an inappropriate message of how to interact in non-sheltered situations (you can’t hug people you meet on the bus).  2) They communicate that the individual is child-like and a-sexual.  3) They can create a climate where it is difficult to detect sexual predators.

6.  Make home movies.

A flip camera is less than $200 and very easy to use.  Make videos showing people being friendly to one another, answering questions about what is important to them, and daily routines or special events.  People love watching themselves and their friends.  It allows them to tell a story that they may not be able to tell by themselves.

7.  While maintaining appropriate boundaries, talk about emotions (including your own).

All people have complex feelings regardless of their abilities in other areas, but people don’t always have the words to communicate them.  It is appropriate to model emotional expression.  For example, when I go with a group from our day program to deliver food to families, I tell a story about how I feel.  I say, “It makes me a little sad to know that people don’t have any food, but the family was so happy we brought them food.  It makes me feel happy and proud to help someone else.  I like to do it.”  I just talk about it as we’re driving back.  It’s also appropriate to name clients’/students’/consumers’ emotions, “You seem like you might be a little bored” or “You look so proud to have gotten your pay check.” What you are doing with these easy statements is creating an emotionally safe environment.  (Note: this is way different than unloading personal problems on clients/students/consumers).

8.  When referring to intimate body parts, use the correct word.

9.  During lunch/snack/work breaks prompt folks to talk to one another, even if it the same conversation you had yesterday, and preferably incorporate pictures.

Perhaps combine with number 10 🙂

10.  Have a regular discussions about current events.

One of my favorite stories came out of a current event discussion.  It was during the 2008 primaries and I said that Hillary Clinton was running.  The person I was talking to said, “Hillary sounds like a girls name” and I said, “It is.”  He started laughing hysterically, and said, “Sarah don’t tease me, a woman can’t run for president.”  What a great way to start talking about gender!