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JUNE 2020 Blog | Healthy Sexuality and Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Having a good understanding about sex and sexuality starting from a young age allows us to foster healthy relationships for later in life. Talking to our youth about this subject is difficult, scary and uncomfortable. Sex education is a sensitive subject and not many people are willing to talk to their teens, let alone allow them to be taught about it in school or in other environments. Teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities are usually excluded from the little education we have for healthy sexuality education. Why is that? Some say that sometimes there is a lack of information and skills to support socially and age-appropriate sexual behavior. But how are we supposed to help prevent this if we aren’t willing to sit down and have the conversations?

Any child, whether they have I/DD or do not, are never too young to start talking about their body parts with proper names and language to use. Every child, regardless of if they have I/DD or not, will hit puberty and will start having questions and showing curiosity about this subject. There is no need to be nervous. There are a lot of different tips to use while having these conversations.

Some general tips about talking to youth with I/DD about sex:

  • Talk to them in a private, comfortable, known setting
  • Explain to them why you are having the conversation and why it is important
  • Deliver the information over time, do not overload the child with information in one sitting
  • Try to give the information as simply as you can
  • Try to keep the conversation light and fun
  • Use videos and role play if you feel comfortable doing so
  • Understand that you may have to repeat certain things until the child is able to understand
  • Use anatomically correct dolls to talk to the child or teen about appropriate touch and body parts, as well as the difference between men and women
  • Be open to questions that the child or teen may have, but also be honest if you do not know the answer
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, try to research it together with the child
  • Assure them that their curiosity on this subject is natural and normal

There are so many resources out there that can help support you to have these difficult conversations with youth who have I/DD.

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