by Catherine Keevil, Disability Co-Ordinator
I have been teaching Sex and Relationships to young people with learning disabilities for over twenty years. In that time I have learnt that no one session on a topic is the answer and that honesty and clear messages from everyone involved with the young person has the best outcomes.
It’s also important to remember what a wide area of skills and information this is covering; emotions, puberty, identity, gender, trust, respect, when you start unpicking it, you’re probably already modelling behaviours and talking about most of the issues with your children but good quality information is also vital.
We can, as parents and carers of any teenager can, find it an embarrassing subject (and so can they) but if we leave young people with learning disabilities to their own devices they will learn from their peers and influences around them, and let’s be honest, no one wants their young adult to learn about relationships from ’Eastenders’! It’s sometimes helpful to think about how you learnt about sex and relationships, was it good quality information? If the answer is “no” then think about how a young person with a learning disability might absorb poor information.
Clear information from school and parents in combination can help young people develop and grow and understand safe healthy adult relationships. It can help develop young people’s social skills and lead to greater independence and most importantly it can increase young people’s self-confidence.
Parents also have many practical concerns for their children about appropriate sexual behaviour in public.
Never say ’no’ or ‘don’t do that’ instead say ‘not here’ to give the message that there is an appropriate place which is the young person’s bedroom.
Organisations and resources that might be helpful;
www.sexeducationforum.org.uk have a huge amount of resources and links not just for people with disabilities
www.fpa.org.uk ‘All about us’ CD-ROM is now discounted to £4.99
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