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There are many benefits to teaching people with intellectual disabilities about sexuality. Here are ways to start those discussions.


A heart made of stones is laid out on a sandy beach

From improved knowledge and self-esteem, enhanced community participation to improved decision-making and self-protection skills, these are the benefits of teaching people with intellectual disability about sexuality.

Often times, people with intellectual disability have less opportunity to learn about sexuality, relationships, reproductive and sexual health. However, people with intellectual disability have the same rights to sexual and reproductive health as others in the community.
In addition, increased sexual health knowledge can lead to the prevention, early detection and treatment of sexual abuse.

Depending on who is delivering the sexual information, it can be confronting and potentially embarrassing for carers (who may be family). This guide provides some insights to support the process.

Suggestions for ways to talk about sex include:

  • Sexual education should be delivered over time. Give the simpler facts first and then continue to add as the individual gets older.
  • Try to deliver information as simply as you can.
  • Try to keep discussions light and fun.
  • Anatomically correct dolls can help teach the person about the differences between males and females
  • Thinking in abstract ways can prove troublesome. It may be helpful to source a range of books, DVDs, dolls and 3D models to assist. These can be acquired at local Family Planning
  • Read age and developmentally appropriate stories about sex and sexual issues together. 
  • Role play may be useful when discussing relationship skills or assertiveness. For example, helping an individual to practice saying ‘no’ to unwanted advances in different settings. Role play may also help with understanding the difference between public and private places if they are having trouble. 
  • Use demonstrations where possible. 
  • Masturbation should be discussed as a healthy and natural way to explore sexuality on their own in a private place

Resource: Carer’s guide to discussing sex with people with intellectual disability

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