Friendship & Dating Program: Helping Children and Adults to Acquire Relationship Skills

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.

https://www.fdprogram.org/

More Info. Less Weird. AMAZE Takes the Awkward Out of Sex Ed

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.

https://amaze.org/

There are some videos for parents reference.

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.

https://youtu.be/wW627gpkWbw

Sexuality Resources for Parents

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.

http://www.srcp.org/index.html

Guest Room

Guest Room is a short film Written & Directed by Joshua Tate and starring Lauren Potter (“Glee”) and Michael Iovine (lovelandfilm.com).  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.

 

Healthy Realationships and Autism

healthy relationships and autismA 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.

PEERS Program

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

Autism in Love

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.

Puberty and Adolescence Resource: A Guide for Parents

puberty_coverThis 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.

The Healthy Bodies Toolkit

Healthy bodiesThis 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/

High School Human Sexuality 101 Week 1: Welcome

This summer, at TAP in Urbana-Champaign, we are doing an eight week human sexuality group for middle school students.  We have three boys and three girls in our group who range in age throughout the middle school years (from starting 6th grade to finishing 8th grade).   Check out the slides that accompany the lesson.

Our first week was a blast.  You can check out the full curriculum here [Sex Ed week 1].  We used a worksheet to help the students come up with their own definition of human sexuality.  I love the definition we came up with as a group, “Sometimes human sexuality topics make us feel uncomfortable, but it’s a part of life, specifically, part of our private life.  Human sexuality is about how we feel about people like loving someone and liking someone, but sometimes two people’s feelings may not match with each other. Human sexuality has to do with emotions, the body, and relationships.”

We sent a letter home with parents that explained the activities with fairly significant detail, touched on next weeks activities, and provided additional resources.  One of the important parts of this letter was suggestions for ways to incorporate these topics at home.  This week, as it was mostly about introductions, the parent component focused on using the rights and responsibilities at home.

Adult Human Sexuality Week 7- Sexual Health

For our sexual health week stdswe talked focused on STDs and contraception methods although we did include more general health information in the newsletter.  We did a condom demonstration and then practiced putting on condoms (we used bananas as our phallics).  It was really important that we did that because several parts of putting on condom were tricky  such as opening the wrapper and making sure it wasn’t inside out.

We talked about the “morning after pill” and STD testing.  This is a more complicated topic for individuals with medical guardians.  Individuals have the right to these forms of medical care without guardian approval if they are part of post sexual assault forensics.  But what about outside of that context?  This was especially timely as we had this class the same week a New York judge struck down age limits on the “morning after pill”.

We played a game with contraception methods and STDs that mimic Go Fish.  It was a lot of fun.  The cards for the game are below.  Depending on your audience, you could either print out two copies of the same cards or there are two versions of each card so you can squeeze in twice as many facts.

If you’re teaching a class on this topic and would like to check out our materials, I’ve included them below.

Materials

Adult Human Sexuality Week 8- Sexuality and the Law

At this stage in the game, my partner in crime took over teaching the course.  This is part of training paradigm were testing out where we partner with a community agency to teach the course.  We process course development together, I start out as lead facilitator, and then we transfer over.  For person who is facilitating also develops the materials.  In the end, the agency gets a copy of all the resources we developed (all the ones I’m sharing with you here).  If you’re interested in doing something like this and are in the Champaign-Urbana area, contact me:)

Everyone in our group really understood topics of sexuality and the law at the extremes so we spend most of our time processing situations that would be more nuanced and contextual.  These situations are quite difficult, even for individuals who have few/no intellectual impairments.  We gave some general guidelines, like Facebook commenting guidelines and also tried to simplify legal language.

People in the class were really interested in crime statistics regarding sexual violence.  We didn’t include a lot of that  information, but it is something that we might want to consider in the future.  It’s hard to balance providing people with accurate information but not sensationalizing or using scare tactics.

This week we used a case study activity.  I’ve never used this as a teaching tool before.  We read a news article about Facebook stalking.  I think the idea of using case studies is really interesting and I would like to test out this tool in the future.  I’d love to hear from you if this is something you’ve had success using.

The article pictured below was featured in the Newsletter this week.  It’s from Connect Ability; a website that was specifically developed for individuals with developmental disabilities.

If you’re thinking about teaching this on your own, feel free to use the materials we’ve developed (below).

Materials

dos and don'ts

Young Adult Human Sexuality Group: Connections

I’m partnering with a local service provider to offer a 10 week human sexuality class, Connections.  I’m really excited about it.  The goal is that the community agency will be able to continue offering classes in the future.  They will have someone who has experience teaching a class and they will also have a set of materials.  This is my first time doing a co-operating method of training so I’ll be keeping you posted on how it is going.  If this is successful, it’s a model that I would like to pursue so if you’re in the Champaign-Urbana area and you’re interested, let me know.

name cardsThe group is really great.  I love working with middle school and high school students, but adults are just refreshing.  This week we mostly just got to know each other.  We did some of my favorite get to know you activities such as making collage of who we are on the outside and the inside.

We also have an undergraduate social work student working with us.  She’s developing a newsletter that will go home each week with the participants.  The newsletters expand on the topics that we talk about in class.

The other thing that is really neat bout this group is that one of the participants comes to the planning meetings and helps set the group up.  He’s taking a participant and instructor role.

I’ve attached all the materials we used for the class.

Communicating About Sexuality Adaptively

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It can be a little overwhelming to start thinking about communicating pictorially about human sexuality topics, but there are some supports available.

Many of you already use Board Maker (computer software that helps make visual supports and PECS).  They have a “Communicating About Sexuality” add on that is very useful and only costs $15.00 (but you have to already have Board Maker).

If you would like some guidelines on how to approach augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in regards to sexuality Speak Up has resources that you may find useful.  Speak Up is a group dedicated to preventing sexual abuse/victimization among people who use alternative communication.  They have guidelines, suggestions for communication displays, and information about building sexual vocabulary.  This group surveyed individuals who use AAC and found that ACC users say they need:

  • People who recognize that they are sexual
  • Information about sexuality
  • Vocabulary to communicate about sexuality
  • People to communicate with about sexuality
  • Accessible resources and services

Sounds pretty darn reasonable to me.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

the guideThis book by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette is eye opening.  It’s written by people with disabilities for people with disabilities and focuses on the joys of sexual intimacy.  As a typically developing person, it challenged a lot of my assumptions about sex and made me think about new things.  Chapters include: Myths About Disability and Sex; Desire and Self-Esteem; Sexual Anatomy and Sexual Response; Communication; Sex with Ourselves; Sex with Others; Oral Sex, Penetration and Positioning; Sex Toys, Books, and Videos; Yoga and Tantric Sex; S/M; Sexual Health; Sexual Violence and Sexuality; Resources; and Glossary of Gender and Sex Terms.   I want to share two passages with you.

Sex and Spontaneity

“We’re taught that sex is suppose to be spontaneous, something that just comes naturally (like ‘true love’).  This belief is damaging to everyone, but is a real problem for people living with disabilities, because any amount of planning makes sex not spontaneous.  Believing in this myth pretty much ensures a lously sex life.
While sex has many meanings, at its heart sex is a process of communication.  Whether we are flirting from across a crowded room, giving someone head for the first time, or making love while listening to a piece of music that totally turns us on, being sexual is being in contact with ourselves and our surroundings.  The idea that this process can happen without thinking, talking, or planning is ridiculous.
Maybe we are willing to buy into the myth of sexual spontaneity because talking about our desires is difficult.  It’s risky, and makes us feel exposed and vulnerable, and often vulnerability is equated with weakness.”

This made me think a lot about the way I teach reproduction and sexual intimacy.  I tend to focus a lot sexual behavior, but not as much on the planning and communication that comprises that behavior.  Also, I do a lot of role playing, planning out what you’re going to say in advance, and scripting.  I’ve never really done that around negotiating intimacy.

Privacy

“If we were taught anything about sex at all when we were younger, many of us learned that sex was something private, inappropriate to talk about or do in front of others.  Privacy becomes a requirement for sexuality.
From someone living in an institution, or using attendant services, or needing the assistance of someone else to facilitate communication, privacy is a completely different reality.  The definition of privacy changes when you have no lock on your door, or when you request private time at a specific hours knowing that it will probably be written down in a log-book.  This myth is one of those ‘no-win situations,’ because we’re told that real sex is a private matter and, guess what, you can’t have that kind of privacy.”

This passage really challenged me to think about how I teach privacy and how I teach about relationship types.  I think sometimes I might ignore that what a lot of people think of as privacy and the individual I am working with reality of privacy are two disparate things.

I do wish this book focused a little more on people with intellectual disability and was written at lower reading level.  I do think people with ID/DD could read it with support, especially sections.  Much of the book is testimonies by people with disabilities and I think these passages could be great teaching tools.  There are also suggested exercises- one of the exercises was about looking at your body.  I teach antimony all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever said, “when you’re at home, alone in your bedroom, look at and feel your body and check out the parts we’ve been talking about, you can even use a mirror.”