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.
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 Friendships & Dating Program (FDP) offers inclusive teaching plans for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A unique aspect of this program is its emphasis on preventing interpersonal violence. There is a version of this program for youth with serious emotional disturbance. The FDP focuses on skill development through experimental learning and group activities with an interactive 10-week curricular plan. Interested groups can purchase the curriculum on its own ($600) or purchase the curriculum in combination with a train the trainer support provided live online ($1,800). You can find more information about the FDP from the below link. Some module illustrations are available on the website.
These days, it is hard to find an age appropriate content about sex, dating and abuse. Children have questions about their bodies, gender and reproduction. Teenagers worry if their bodies are developing normally or not while older adolescents struggle with peer pressure, changing relationships and emerging sexual feelings. AMAZE is an amazing website for parents and educators which helps them to expose their child to age appropriate content about sex through short videos. The website provides an insight to young people to successfully understand puberty, healthy body image, distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, concepts of consent and mutual respect. Video topics are designed to meet the learning objectives outlined in the National Sexuality Education Standards.
Parents are the primary sexual educators of their children. By answering children’s questions, a parent let them know that you are “askable” and establishes an open line of communication that will serve you and your children well as they mature into sexually healthy young adults.
AMAZE also has resources for younger children like the parents’ playlist from amaze jr. It is designed to help parents become comfortable and confident talking to their children openly and honestly at any age.
This video will help parents to know when to talk about sexuality with their kids.
Do you think so playing “doctor – doctor” is safe or not? Check this video out which helps you to communicate your thinking and others about this game.
This video will model to the adolescents with disabilities to learn about manage their relationships with person they like or have attractions. This video guide them to deal with peer pressure and make healthy relationship.
This video helps your child to understand their body parts, difference between a male and female, and similarities between boy and girl.
Raising an individual with a disability presents a different set of obstacles then an abled individual may, but one topic that all parents must address is sexuality. Individuals with disabilities are sexual beings and therefore deserve an education on sexuality. While parents may acknowledge this need, finding resources and strategies to present the information may be more difficult if you are raising an individual who requires a different method of learning.
The Sexuality Resource Center for Parents provides a well rounded variety of information pertaining to sexuality. The website includes a section of information labeled “for all parents” that contains subjects they believe are useful for all children. In addition, they provide sections titles “For parents of children of typical development”, “For parents of children with developmental disabilities”, and “For parents of children with physical disabilities”. In each section, you can find a variety of information such as basics, specifics, activities, and additional resources. They also include tip guides!
The Sexuality Resource Center for Parents works to provide a better, comprehensive information base for parents to use when addressing sexuality to their child. The variety of knowledge is extremely useful when trying to find information to meet your child’s specific needs. In their own words, their mission statement claims “It’s time to acknowledge that children with developmental disabilities will become adults with sexual feelings, and as such, we must provide them with the information and skills they’ll need to become sexually healthy adults.“
Guest Room is a short film Written & Directed by Joshua Tate and starring Lauren Potter (“Glee”) and Michael Iovine. It won the Audience Award (Competition Short) at SXSW 2015.
I think you are going to love this movie. It’s beautiful, emotional, and honest. I could easily see this being used in a human sexuality classroom to help discuss parenting, consent, and support from families. It follows the story of a young couple who are faced in a situation many young couples find themselves in, an unexpected pregnancy. Like many young couples, the response of their families is shock and disappointment and this makes it difficult to determine their own feelings, hopes, and wants.
There was one statistic that was mentioned in the film that I had not heard before. It said that a women with Down Syndrome has a 50% chance of having a child with Down Syndrome. I did a little digging to see if I could find out more and received some help from The Tech Geneticist a project from the University of Stanford which seeks to increase the public understanding of genetics. About half of the eggs of a women with Down Syndrome will have an extra 21st chromosome (similar to what is described in this post http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask296). Her actual chance of having a child with Down Syndrome is less than 50% because fetuses with extra 21st chromosomes are at increased risk of complications. According to the National Down Syndrome Society only about 50% of women with Down Syndrome are fertile (ovulate).
It’s trickier when it comes to thinking about the father. Much less is known about the heritability (chance of passing a genetic trait on) of Down Syndrome for men with Down Syndrome, but it may be that their sperm that carry two 21st chromosomes would be less viable than their sperm that only have one. Both the Tech Geneticist and the National Down Syndrome Society suggested men with Down Syndrome seem to have much lower fertility rates than their same age peers with two 21st chromosomes.
A new curriculum called “Healthy Relationships and Autism” is now available from Wesley Spectrum (a behavioral health organization with several locations in the Pittsburgh, PA area). It was designed to teach skills to adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or cognitive challenges in the areas of self care, sexuality, and relationship development. Their website has an example lesson to help you determine if it would be right for your students. They do not publish their pricing information (you have to email them for more information but they will send you a sample packet).
I have not used this curriculum but there is some evidence of it’s effectiveness. A study published in School and Educational Psychology evaluated this program with six students. These students showed increases in sexual knowledge which they retained one month after completing the class.
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.
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.