Sexuality Resource Center for Parents: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Teaching Children about Human Sexuality

For Parents of Children with
Developmental Disabilities

If you ever doubted the need to provide sexuality information to children and teens with disabilities, consider the following questions and statements that were submitted to us by 15-18 year-old teenagers with developmental disabilities:

How do you handle people – strangers – making passes at you in public?
Is it okay to date older men?
How can you tell if someone is interested in you?
How do you change the way a boy kisses?
Should you wear condoms?
I really want to be married. I really want to be pregnant.
Can I get a disease if I touch sperm with my hand?
Can you get in trouble by looking for sexual answers on the Internet?
How do I get girls to like me?
How can you know whether you’re gay?
How long should you wait to have sex?
Is it okay to touch my own private parts?
What do I do if my parents won’t let me have a boyfriend?
What happens when you have sex?
Is a person interested if they keep looking at you?
Is it okay if a boy holds my hand on the first date and I’m nervous to say “no”?
My boyfriend told me to take off everything and do the sex.

We’re not saying that all children with developmental disabilities have the ability to ask these kinds of questions or will ever have sexual relationships with other people. But even the lowest functioning child will need information and skills regarding sexuality – if only to protect them from sexual abuse and to prevent them showing their private parts or masturbating in public.

Which brings us to a major point that we may need to emphasize more than once: Not everything in these webpages will apply to your child. There are many different types of developmental disabilities, and the degree of disability can vary greatly from one child to the next, so it’s up to you to decide what your child will understand and benefit from. We only ask that that you don’t skip any activities just because you assume your child won’t be able to grasp the concepts. Think of teaching sexuality as you would think of teaching your child anything else. You’ve come up with ingenious ways before to get your child to understand something – in math, in language, or in daily living skills – right? Don’t let the subject matter scare you – if you can teach your child other things, then you can teach them about sexuality.

It’s time to acknowledge that children with developmental disabilities will become adults with sexual feelings, and as such, we must provide them with the information and skills they’ll need to become sexually healthy adults.
   

We also ask that you don’t make the assumption that your older child will never be interested in romantic relationships. Most teenagers and young adults with developmental disabilities want to be in romantic relationships. They want to date, they want to experience intimacy, and they want to get married. In order for them to make good choices, it is your responsibility as a parent to teach them about these very personal topics – not to leave them “in the dark.”

Finally, enjoy the time spent talking with your child about sexuality. Most parents are incredibly apprehensive about talking with their children about this subject. Don’t be – you may be in for some of the best conversations you’ll ever have with your child. Your child will appreciate your openness, they will come to view you as an adult they can turn to in a crisis, and you will be having a profoundly positive effect on their lives.

The Basics

Parents of children with developmental disabilities need some basic information. At the very least, you'll want to know how your child's disability affects their sexual development. That's just one of the articles you'll find by clicking on the link below.

The Basics

The Specifics

Now it's time to get down to the specifics – things that may not apply to all children with developmental disabilities, but that may at one time or another apply to your child. If you have a daughter and she's starting puberty, then you'll want to know what to teach her about her periods. Got a child who masturbates in public? Then there are other things you need to know. And the list goes on.

Pick and choose by clicking on the link below.

The Specifics

Activities to Use with Your Child

Ready to protect your child from sexual abuse? Want to prevent them from exhibiting private behaviors in public? Want to help your child find a date? Those are just three of the situations that are addressed in this collection of activities to use with your child. Again, pick and choose among all of the activities based on what your child already knows and what they’re capable of learning. If you like a particular activity, but you find it too easy or too difficult for your child, then adapt, adapt, adapt. Why? Because you know your child best. You know how they learn, you know how many new things they can absorb in one sitting, and you know how much repetition they need. These activities were created for children with developmental disabilities, but every child is different and every disability affects each child in a different way. To get started, click on the link below.

Activities to Use with Your Child

Additional Resources

We're not in the business of reinventing the wheel. There are so many great resources out there, both in print and online, and all you have to do is click on the link below to see what we mean.

Additional Resources

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