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A case for sexuality education

People with developmental disabilities have frequently been left out of school-based sexuality education classes. But many educators have come to acknowledge the importance of providing comprehensive sexuality education for these students as an effective way to prevent sexual abuse and harassment, prevent the spread of STD/HIV, prevent unwanted pregnancy, and provide the knowledge and skills these students need to enjoy healthy and fulfilling sexual lives.

Abstinence-based sexual health education for youth with cognitive impairments

Making a Difference! is designed to provide young adolescents with the knowledge, confidence and skills necessary to reduce their risk of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and pregnancy by abstaining from sex. The curriculum emphasizes that young adolescents should postpone sexual activity and that practicing abstinence is the only way to eliminate the risk for pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.

ETR, dfusion and Kent ISD collaborated to createthis adapted version of Making a Difference! to serve the special needs of high school students with mild cognitive impairment (MiCI). Because students with MiCI have different instructional needs than their general education peers, the pedagogical approach has been adapted to make the information understandable and relevant for these youth. This adaptation may also be appropriate for other age ranges and developmental disabilities.

Sexuality education for people with developmental disabilities

Katherine McLaughlin, MEd, CSE, is a national expert on sexuality and developmental disabilities. She teaches sexuality education to people with developmental disabilities and trains them to be peer sexuality educators themselves.

Starting from the position that people with developmental disabilities are sexual people with feelings and needs just like other people, McLaughlin partnered with Green Mountain Self-Advocates Executive Director Karen Topper and Jessica Lindert to develop Sexually Education for People with Developmental Disabilities, a powerful curriculum for high school students and adults.

McLaughlin and her partners are committed to the principle “Nothing about us without us” – or the belief that self-advocacy needs to be part of the foundation for any materials developed for people with disabilities. She notes, “People with disabilities reviewed the materials, offered feedback, and then helped us field test, working in teaching teams where they were paired with a professional [sexuality educator].”

ETR is proud to offer a curriculum that encourages people with developmental disabilities to become sexual self-advocates as they learn to speak up for healthy relationships and sexuality.

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