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.
Navigating developmental stages, education, and sex education can be extremely difficult. The Birds & The Bees team put together a parent tip sheet that offers basic information and resources for parents of autistic children. View the tip sheets in the slide show and download below.
Mad Hatter Wellness is a company that creates comprehensive sexual health programs that teach and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Their curriculum Sexuality for All Abilities, contains activities and lessons that cover many different topics regarding sexuality and relationships. This is a holistic program that combines mindfulness techniques to address sexuality topics and provides a safe environment that ensures growth and learning. They offer a student and an adult option of the curriculum and can be purchased for $375 at the link below.
On top of this, Mad Hatter Wellness also sells other tools to help teach and practice topics that are covered in the curriculum. Their Boundaries Flip Book that form sentences regarding boundaries. It created discussion for healthy boundaries, as well as highlights what is okay and what isn’t, and when these behaviors are appropriate. On top of this, they also have a Family Discussion Guide, which offers activities, information, and discussion questions that will help families discuss healthy relationships and boundaries. In addition to these, they offer self-paced online courses, and more physical resources that can be used to implement the curriculum.
The Sexual Health for Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (SHEIDD) project promotes comprehensive and accessible sex education for youth with with intellectual or developmental disabilities. They’ve interviewed individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and found out what they want from sexual education. They’ve co-created guidelines for educators, parents, peers, or other individuals associated with someone with a DD (which they call “support people). These guidelines are holistic, and they help individuals understand themselves, what their rights are, how to express themselves, and how to build healthy relationships. The SHEIDD project also provides resources, trainings, and teaching tools on their website. They partner with various organizations around the country and help to holistically educate individuals with disabilities.
These guidelines are free to anyone, and can be accessed at the link below:
Properly educating children on sex, puberty, and many other related topics can be challenging for parents. Many parents struggle with how they should speak to their child about these topics, and when the time is right. Sex Ed Rescue is a YouTube channel designed to educate parents on how to talk to their kids about these topics. This channel includes instructional videos, Q&A’s, children’s book reviews, and many other educational resources. It is a great resource to help parents educate their children on sex. It also helps to create a more age-appropriate environment for the child, and encourages comfortable communication between the child and the parent.
Linked below is the channel’s introduction video and the channel’s homepage.
The Stanford Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law and Policy Project released a report focused on the Capacity to Consent to Sexual Activity among Those with Developmental Disabilities (link takes you to the page where you can freely download the report). The report provides historical background, the current state of the field, and capacity definitions. There are no federal statutes defining sexual assault and consent – each state has its own statutes. The report highlights six standards for consent used in various states: morality, nature and the consequences, totality of the circumstances, nature of the conduct, judgement, and evidence of disability. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides easy access to the laws in each state (link takes you to their state law finder). As wording in state statutes can be vague, judicial decisions help provide guidance for interpreting the statutes. The report from Stanford Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law and Policy Project provides summaries of judicial decision for each state. This report is an important tool for both victim rights and sexual autonomy advocates.
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.
Sometimes when we teach human sexuality we don’t get into issues of gender identity. Even though this can be a complicated topic it is important for individuals with autism as they are able. Sometimes individuals with autism get hung up on rules and categories. A simplistic set of rules is a disservice as it doesn’t reflect the reality of individual experience. Here we can use gender to assist with introducing more fluid thinking more generally. When we teach this, we still use the idea of “rules” or “guidelines” we just provide a set of explanations that are more complex.
Teaching with gender identity is also important because you shouldn’t assume that you understand the gender identity of your students. It opens the door for students to understand their own gender identity and gives them tools for discussing it.
Most educators discussion gender identity with sexuality, and physical sex. Here’s a quick and simple video about the differences between gender identity, sexuality, and sex. There’s also a good intro to sexual orientation and romantic orientation. Like many videos for general guidance, it goes a little fast for novices so you may want to have them watch it once and then watch it again with starting and stopping. You can watch it here.
*In the video, Hank refers to a person named “John.” John Green (author) is Hank’s brother and this is part of a video series they have together where they refer to each other as their audiences.*
Here are some terms from the video that students may need defined and some suggestions for how to explain them.
- Sex: In this video, sex is defined as the physical sex organs (genitalia). A lot of time we think that everyone who has a penis is a man and everyone who has a vulva (or vagina) is a woman. But man/boy woman/girl is bigger than that. Would you consider yourself to be a boy or a girl? What does that mean to you? This is your gender. We usually use the words male/female to refer to physical sex organs.
- Intersex: Every once an a while, the body grows male AND female sex organs. If students want more depth, you could explain that this could mean having a penis and a vagina, or just an elongated clitoris and a vagina, or even having a penis and uterus, or a vulva and testicle. To explain these two points together you could have two drawing of people and ask students to group the genitalia how people often expect it to be and then have them move things around to show how they can be different. In discussing intersex, I like to reinforce that there is nothing wrong with being intersex but sometimes people may feel uncomfortable because it’s unexpected for many people. You may want to mention that people use to use the word hermaphrodite, but now that word is considered offensive.
- Gender Identity: What gender you feel you are. Gender is a wide spectrum and includes more than just girls and boys. There are people who identify as man/woman, neither, and in between. Learn more here using the Genderbread Person graphic. To reinforce this concept, use their list from above. Look for items on the list that could be true for either a boy or a girl. Explain that for some people their gender identity matches their sex but for other people it doesn’t match.
- Cisgender: When a person’s biological sex matches their gender identity. If a person with a penis identifies as a man, then they are a cisgender person.
- Transgender: When a person’s biological sex does not match their gender identity. If a person with a penis identifies as a woman, then that person may identify as a transgender person.
- It is important to note that this can be a sensitive topic for many people who do not identify as cisgender, and it is best to allow people to share their gender identity when they are comfortable.
- Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. You can learn more at:
- Sexual Orientation: Sexual attraction. This can include heterosexuality, gay/lesbian, bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality, demisexuality, and many more.
- Romantic Orientation: Romantic attraction. This does not have to be the same as sexual orientation. A person might be sexually attracted to men but mentally and romanticallyy attracted to women.
- Sexual Behavior: Sexual behavior is the physical actions that a person does to express their sexuality.
- Gender Roles: Roles that people of a certain gender are expected to act. This can mean that boys are “supposed” to play with trucks while girls are “supposed” to play dress-up.
- It is important to note that gender roles are not set in stone and it is okay to not follow gender roles.
Here you can download our Genderbread Person activity, which is a worksheet that can be used to help students in their process of understanding their own identities and the meanings of these terms. There is a copy of the Genderbread Person graphic attached so it could be used to visually help students understand these concepts.