This course would be suitable for any professional working with a young person with learning disabilities or their parents. It can be delivered as a two-day course or adapted to meet the identified needs of the group.
Understanding emotions, boundaries, sexual health, personal hygiene and how to stay safe is vital for people with learning disabilities. This knowledge helps to develop useful life skills and a positive and healthy attitude towards sexuality and well-being.
Relationships can bring pleasure and boost self-esteem and confidence, but they also involve risks such as being hurt, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections. It can also be difficult to strike a balance between protecting young people with learning disabilities from risks and allowing them to explore and develop wider personal and social relationships.
The 2015 report ‘Overprotected, Unprotected’, commissioned by Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, highlights that young people, particularly those facing transition to adulthood are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. This can be due to many social factors including the infantilisation of young people with learning disabilities, social isolation, lack of empowerment and voice, little access to sex and relationships education and a false perception that people with learning disabilities don’t have the same needs, wishes and desires to have a relationship as other young people.
The course can include the following topics:
- Puberty and growing up including communication and language
- Sex and the law particularly in relation to consent
- The difference between friendship and a relationship
- Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender and the barrier faced by young people with learning disabilities
- Gender identity particularly in young people with autism
- Sexual reproduction
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Staying safe including on line safety
- Sexual exploitation – reducing the vulnerability for those young people with learning disabilities
- Exploring resources appropriate to use with young people with learning disabilities
The Disability Discrimination Act is very clear when it states that schools and sexual health services have a legal obligation to give young people with learning disabilities an equal service. Research and consultation tell us that young people and adults with learning disabilities are much less likely to have access to sexual health information than their peers. This is not only because of attitudes towards disability and sexuality, but also lack of resources and a dearth of professionals qualified to provide the right kind of support. It is therefore vital that anyone working with these young people, particularly during their transition to adulthood, are equipped with the relevant and current information with which to empower them to have healthy, happy relationships and to protect them from sexual exploitation.