AYA and Gynecology
As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult to think of your child with an intellectual disability as a sexual being. However, as your child ages chronologically, he or she will go through puberty and may experience sexual feelings. Teaching your child about their changing body and sexuality — including intimacy, positive relationships, peer pressure, body image and responsibility — is an important step in helping him or her stay healthy and safe.
Start talking with your children about sexuality while they are very young. All children will go through puberty changes and experience sexual feelings as they age chronologically. Talking with your child regularly as opportunities permit will help them prepare for those changes. The younger you begin to discuss/teach healthy sexuality, the more effective it will be.
Your support will also help your child better navigate physical development and changes, and better understand the importance of hygiene, privacy, and personal boundaries.
In addition, having frequent and honest discussions with your child about puberty before it happens, and sexuality, is an important way to help protect your child. Youth with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual abuse. By talking openly with your child over time you will help equip him or her with the tools to help protect against abuse.
Before you start a conversation with your child, you may want to consult with a health care professional who is knowledgeable about your child’s abilities and limitations. They may be able to help you sort out what and how much information will be beneficial for your child. The resources section of the web page offers some good information. In addition, it’s good to prepare for this discussion by understanding:
It is difficult for the child with an intellectual disability to understand that sexualized media does not describe real life interactions that should include the elements of intimacy, closeness, and romantic love.