|Talking about sex and sexuality with your child with a disability: When, what, and why|
|Written by Sorah Stein|
|Wednesday, 05 September 2012 01:21|
Teaching your child with a disability about his or her body, its functions, and sexuality should not be very different from teaching a child without a disability. Be prepared, however, that your child with a disability might need more repetition of the information than a child without a disability.
Recognize that touching is normal. Infants and toddlers are curious creatures and they learn through exploration. As infants begin to explore their bodies, they are bound to find their genitals. At this age, children also discover that this kind of touching can be soothing, and many do so when getting ready to sleep.
Toddlers begin to explore themselves and each other – this is normal. These are exploratory, curiosity-based behaviors. While you should start teaching your child about modesty and privacy when they are toddlers, expect that these behaviors will continue for a little while. You can remind your little one that he or she should be keeping his or her hands and eyes to him or herself and that everyone’s clothes need to stay on and in place during play dates – and at all other times, but please do not chastise or punish your child for engaging in normal, developmentally appropriate activities.
When talking to your child about his or her body parts, use the correct, anatomical names, not cute and silly little euphemisms. Teaching proper names for genitals is important. This is essential for safety. We should teach children to be alert to and report strange behavior, as opposed to merely identifying and being wary of strangers. Familiar people can engage in strange behavior; in fact, statistics indicate that the majority of children who experience abuse or abduction know the perpetrators of these crimes. It is important to talk to your child about physician check-ups and how the doctor might examine him or her – with mom or dad present.
Finally, learning about proper hygiene typically begins at this age, and should include the genitals.
Preschoolers are still curious creatures; everything is about fun, play, and learning. While most children will have realized by this point that boys and girls have different plumbing, some are still catching on. Games of doctor are common at this age. While your dream might be for Jr. to enter the medical profession, it is a tad early to start training.
At this age, you should continue to focus on privacy and modesty. The important points at this age are: my body belongs to myself and there are parts of my body that are considered private, no one should touch my private parts except for health reasons (doctor) or to clean them (mom, dad), and children should not touch the private parts of other people’s bodies. Also include activities that are permissible in private versus not allowable in public. You can do this through conversation and games, as well as good modeling.
School age children become more curious about the mechanics of things – how did the baby get in there, how will it get out, etc. Giving honest answers is important, but don’t feel that you have to give a medical school-worthy lecture, or too many intimate details about what goes on in your bedroom.
As your child nears puberty, it is important to start talking about the changes that will be happening soon, so they don’t frighten your child. If your child has limited vocal communication skills, pictures can be a great tool to use in your conversations. There are some great images at http://www.avert.org/puberty-girls.htm and http://www.avert.org/puberty-boys.htm that can be useful in depicting some of these impending changes. And as with many other things you teach your son or daughter throughout his or her childhood, be prepared to repeat these lessons many times to ensure he or she grasps all of the necessary concepts.
Depending on the age and functioning level of your child, you may want to engage in conversations about dating and prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. While we’d all like to think our children – with and without disabilities, will remain sweet and cuddly forever, this isn’t so. Our kids will all grow up and need the information to be successful and safe teens, young adults, and adults.
More information on sexuality education recommendations can be found at Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten-12th Grade, Third Edition by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States:
More information about talking to your children about sexuality education, by Cory Silverberg, sexuality educator, writer, speaker, and consultant can be found at:
Previously published by Sorah Stein in Something Special Magazine, http://somethingspecialmagazine.com/
|Last Updated on Sunday, 04 November 2012 14:40|