Sexuality Education Network and Survey

This is the fifth of several posts containing portions of my feasibility study looking at the need for an independent sexuality and social skills agency serving teens and adults with ID/DD and their supporters.

The education needed on behalf of agencies is two-fold. People receiving services need to be educated so that they can make informed choices and identify an assault if one happened. They need to know the physicality of sex acts and that they have a right to say no. Staff need to be trained on how to deal with questions and situations they may be uncomfortable with and how to respect the privacy that surrounds a person’s sexuality. Staff also need to be trained to recognize signs of abuse and a cultural shift needs to be made to ere on the side of misreporting rather than underreporting abuse to avoid confrontation with coworkers.

In Massachusetts, registered sexuality educators all take the Sexuality and Social Skills Training of Trainers course through the DDS office of Learning and Development, taught by Pat Carney. The training of trainers description is as follows:

“Quite often, people with developmental disabilities are not provided with adequate education and support to develop a positive and healthy sense of their own sexuality and its expression.  Lack of information, support and interpersonal skills increase a person’s vulnerability to exploitation and abuse, and can result in decisions that put her or him at risk of injury, emotional trauma, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

“Although family members and support staff understand the need for education about sexuality and opportunity to practice social skills and making good decisions, they also frequently feel unsure of how to approach sexuality education with someone, or wonder whether it is wise or necessary to do so.

“This eight-day training of trainers will prepare human service support staff to provide well-informed, current, and values-sensitive education and support to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  Participants will gain information and understanding about sexuality, human development and the impact of life experiences on self-awareness, self-esteem, and sexual behavior.  They will also develop skills to provide 1:1 and group learning opportunities for the individuals they support”. (

As mentioned above, the sexuality educators group makes up a negligible portion of disability services workers in the Commonwealth, and appears to be one of, if not the only organized movement of people working towards the full, supported inclusion of people with disabilities in comprehensive, adaptive sexuality education methods in the United States.

I accessed the Sexuality Educators Network to ask for some perspectives on the state of sexuality education as it is currently provided to people with disabilities, and how they would like to see it changed in the future. In the responses to the survey, I received feedback from specialized sexuality educators, professional and direct care staff, family members, and sexuality educators for the typical community.

This is the information from the survey page:

In a recent meeting of the Central West Region Sexuality Educators Network, we discussed the desire to do a larger scale series that was put on by several educators. However, the nature of the Network being what it is, there are many logistical issues:

Where do we have the classes?

How do we advertise?

Whose money pays for the expenses, and where does the profit go?

And, most importantly, how do we cater to the general public, rather than just those who receive services from that particular agency?

One answer to those questions is to create a separate entity that handles the logistical problems. As a final project for my Bachelor degree in Human Services Advocacy (UMass/UWW, class of 2012), I am conducting a preliminary study to consider the feasibility of creating an “entity” to manage the logistics of providing training to the public.

The question I am trying to answer is: will an organization that manages the logistics of providing comprehensive sexuality education to youth and adults with dd/id improve access for significant numbers of people in Massachusetts?

My goal in conducting this study is to provide a solid foundation on which to build an organization that improves access to specialized sexuality education by removing some of the current logistical barriers facing educators and learners.

The questions in the survey were:What is your relationship to the topic?I have received or wanted to receive specialized sexuality education.
I have a family member or friend who has or would benefit from specialized sexuality education.
I am a sexuality educator.
I am another professional working in the disabilities field.What is your experience with specialized sexuality education?

What are you currently doing in the field of sexuality education?
What would you change about the way that sexuality is currently taught to people with developmental/intellectual disabilities?
What is your favorite resource or curricula?
What do you want for the future of sexuality education for people with developmental/intellectual disabilities?


Next: Survey Results

7 years ago