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
Over the summer, I did a 8 week sexuality class with middle school students with autism (3 boys and 3 girls). I’ve posted each lesson from the curriculum, but I thought I’d link all the posts together so you could get to them in one place. For each session there is a lesson plan, parent letter, and power point slides. Some lessons also have worksheets. I’ve also commented about how the lessons went and some ideas for adaptation. Click on the links below to go to the posts and access the materials.
Here are videos that were developed for 10 – 17 year olds on the autism spectrum regarding puberty & other sexuality topics. They are clear, concrete, and move through the material slowly (this is one of the biggest problems with videos for a general audience- they go too fast!)
My favorite thing about the videos is that the male instructor is an individual with autism.
All of the videos can be found on www.coultervideo.com, a website that sells videos by Dan & Julie Coulter. Dan & Julie are parents of a son with ASD who started creating educational videos on their vacation and now do it full time.
It was really fun teaching about gender roles. Gender roles and gender identity were difficult concepts. Most of the people in the group talked about wearing a dress as if it made you a women. So we talked a lot about biology and society and how those both influence people and gender. We also talked a lot about gender stereotypes and how they can put limits on how people act.
Our big activity this week was making gender stereotype collages. We found images from magazines that we thought reflected gender stereotypes and made them into a collage. We talked about which stereotypes were easy to break and which ones were hard to escape. The men found a lot of images they thought were more realistic depictions of women. In the future, I think it could be fun to structure that into the activity.
Throughout the entire session, one of the things that was really difficult is that there are gender roles, gender stereotypes, and gender identities. They influence each other but they’re different. It’s not so critical that folks in the class understand the precise definitions, but it might have been helpful to walk through that a little bit more concretely. On the other hand it led to really nice discussion questions, for example one participant asked “What makes a person their gender?”
We used a couple videos in class. The first video focused on gender identity. It shows person in the process of gender reassignment. Over the three year period you can see how their external appearance reflects gender identity more and more.
The second video is more about gender stereotypes and gender roles. One of our participants brought up how boys don’t like to play with “girl toys” and I remembered having seen this and pulled it up (it’s nice when it works out like that!).
If you want to take a stab at teaching this on your own, hear are the materials we used.
YAI is a agency out of New York that has a relationship video series I really like. They also have developed a determining sexual consent manual (which you can get through their online resource center).
Unfortunately, this is not a free service, but as far as somethings go, it’s not too bad. For $150 a year you can buy membership to the YAI’s online resource center. You then get to download tons of materials. They have a lot on relationships and sexuality. Some of it is geared toward staff/educator preparedness but they also have lesson plans. Many of the items are available to purchase separately without buying membership to the resource center (and other items, like the relationship videos, aren’t available to download).
You can check out some of the resources available during a free trial.
Many women with development disabilities are under anesthesia during pelvic exams or don’t get them at all (or as recommended). However, educating about pelvic exams may be an important part of teaching sexual health. I’ve included the link to a video that may help.
This is a brief video that goes through the basic procedure of a woman having a pelvic exam. This could also be a good video for teaching about female anatomy. It has a lot of technical terminology but it also moves nice and slow.
My favorite comment from this session was, “Can we stop working on the worksheet for a minute? I just really want to listen!” We based the lesson the Nova’s “Life’s Greatest Miracle” (you can stream for free or buy the DVD for $20). We covered the material in one session but didn’t have time for the breakout groups and we went over our allotted time. We could have easily split it up into two sessions. The video is very well done and contains a lot of good information. We had the students fill out a worksheet to help them key into important points and break down euphemisms. It’s amazing how much they are learning but also what is slipping by. For example, as we’re watching the sperm and the egg meet I asked, “Is this happening inside the man’s body or inside the woman’s body?” and they didn’t really have any idea.
For the parent component of the session, we manly focused on two questions. 1) What do you think about preemptive birth control? and 2) What are your hopes and fears about your child becoming a parent in the future. Unfortunately, these are some of those questions without any easy answers.
This topic generated a lot of good discussion. Our group was a little distracted today (maybe because we had a week break). For next week we’re going to try a few different classroom management strategies so we can try to spend more time focused. We’re going to simplify the rights and the responsibilities and give them 3 rules (no talking when I’m talking, no hitting, and no mean comments). We’ll also use a visual stop sign for if the group gets out of control. I’ll keep you posted how it goes! Having said that, despite distractions, I’m confident the group did learn a few things about crushes.
Activities this week…
What is a crush?
Students brainstormed what a person with a crush might be thinking and feeling. Students varied in their level of understanding as to what a crush is. This activity helped students understand that crushes are a special set of thoughts and feelings about another person. They will learned from each other what those thoughts and feelings are. None of the students in our group expressed ideas about what a crush is that would not be safe if acted upon (I was thinking someone might say something like, “I just want to stare at the person all the time and follow them around.”) We were ready to address any of the items from the brainstorm that were unsafe. In later discussion we labeled some ideas as unsafe.
How to deal with a crush
We’re used a short video to outline four steps for managing a crush: don’t tell everyone, hang out with mutual friends, talk to them directly, and don’t take it personal if they don’t like you back. As we watched the video we filled out a worksheet. The video gives very concrete advice for how to manage a crush. The questions on the worksheet helped students think about what they might say and how they may feel when trying to manage a crush.
This is where they got a little distracted. In the future, I would shorten the worksheet so there is only one question per tip. I would maybe have them work on answering the questions with a partner, then sharing with the group.
Turning someone down
We introduced students to three strategies for turning someone down or saying “NO”: no with a reason, no with an alternative, and no and go. We introduced these strategies as a way to avoid unwanted crushes. They can be used in many contexts, but especially in the future, could be use to avoid unwanted sexual behavior. Students role-played saying no in different ways to someone who has a crush on them. The role-plays worked really well! Role-playing can be difficult but it’s a great tool for rehearsing concepts that your hoping students will be able to perform in the future.
Social Signals ($159.oo) is a series of videos and curriculum are designed to teach adolescent students with autism and intellectual disability about safe relationship skills. There is also a parent curriculum for $23.99. They have a sample video and lesson available for free so you can preview before you purchase. I liked the video. I like to teach about expected and unexpected behaviors and I think these videos could be a good tool. There are also sample lessons that accompany the videos.
Living Safer Sexual Lives is a training pack available for purchase ($57.23) for those of you who may be doing training on human sexuality and disabilities. I have not personally used their materials, but it was developed in a very interesting way and it’s not very expensive so I thought I’d pass it along. A research group in Australia interviewed several people with intellectual disability about their sexual lives and then used their stories to develop this training. The training is targeted toward parents, professionals, and self advocates. The training pack has three parts: introduction, training, and resources (including a DVD of people with intellectual disability telling their stories).
You can read the full report which outlines the findings from the interviews and how they used the interviews to shape the training. The report also includes accounts from people with disabilities about their sexuality.
The key themes that emerged from the stories were:
Diversity and similarity. Diversity within the lives of the story-tellers and similarities between needs and desires of this group and other adults.
I came across this looking for educational resources for teaching about puberty. It is not specifically designed for students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities but is very well done and could serve as a basis for instruction. It’s available to stream free on YouTube and I’ve posted it here. You can also find it available for purchase if you would prefer a DVD.
This is the puberty episode…
The series also has a reproduction episode but it’s presented with the baby as a “body snatcher” which I think would be very confusing.
In the crushes unit of Human Sexuality 101 for middle school, we used this video on handling a crush. We were talking about this during The Birds and the Bees workshop in Champaign today and it reminded me that I should probably highlight this resource on its own.
The How to be in Middle School series covers topics such as how to invite someone to a dance, how to go to a dance, first kiss, handling kissing games, and many more topics (including less relationshipy videos like how to clean your room quickly). The videos present clear rules and how to guides. We planned an activity around the rules in our group.
A lot of the curriculum we used for the puberty unit of our Human Sexuality 101 group was adapted from “Teaching Sexual Health“. They are a group out of Canada that provides support for teachers and parents. I used their general curriculum but they also have a curriculum for students of differing ability levels. They have great resources for parents including “webisodes” that give examples of parents talking to kids about sexuality topics. The website is very well organized and easy to use!
There are many videos out there that are excellent for instruction and also for expanding your personal understanding of sexuality topics. I have a few on my resource list but wanted review a couple that are available. Click on the link to be taken to the page where it can be purchased. I’ve included previews and prices (you can get the videos cheaper for personal use- these are the instructional prices).
Is Love Enough? Is a documentary about parenting with disabilities. It’s $195.00
Monica and David is a documentary about a couple with Down Syndrome. $200 (but sometimes is on sale for $100).
The Kiss is a 52 second video featuring two actors with Down Syndrome. It is short and poignant.
Bumblebees is a short video made by an individual with autism following his first date.
Despite being told as a child he would never speak or walk, Vance accomplished what doctors thought was impossible. But now he has a new challenge: dating.
Made for the 48 Hour Disability Film Challenge.
Genre – Romantic Comedy
Setting – Living room / park
Elements – Comb / balloon
Theme – A reunion
When I see “Sexuality and the Arts” on the SIECUS topics list, I admit, I can get a little overwhelmed with trying to explore this topic in a way that is relevant to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But I think the Sprout Movie festival is a great place to start. Here is one of their Poetic Shorts, “How do I know?”