Limestone College students pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work may wonder why they need to take the course SW 206 The Influence of Sexual Factors on Behavior. A recent Social Work Today article illustrates just how vital this class can be for a social worker.
This article discusses sex education for young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).
While there is much debate and healthy discussion around the appropriate age to teach young adults about sex, far less is said about the appropriate age to teach young adults with I/DD about sex.
The article shines light on some of the common misconceptions about people with I/DD and their sexuality. Leigh Ann Davis, MSSW, MPA, a project manager for Justice Initiatives at The Arc explains that people with I/DD are often viewed as having no sexuality, when in reality they share the same sexual needs and desires as everyone else.
“Their intellectual functioning does not preclude them from having sexual feelings for others, wanting close relationships, wanting to get married, or having a family,” says Davis.
Providing sex education to individuals with I/DD is particularly critical because they are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. According to the article, there is research that suggests that 80 percent of women with I/DD are sexually abused by the time they are 18. For men, this number is 50 percent. When individuals with I/DD are able to consent to sex but lack education, their sexual experiences can lead to trauma.
Aaron McHugh, MS, NCC, QIDP, dual diagnosis specialist for Philadelphia Coordinated Health Care says that young adults with I/DD should receive sex education around the same time as their peers without I/DD: middle school or high school.
However, because teaching sex education to people with I/DD requires a more specialized approach, instructors should pay close attention to providing information in an easy-to-understand format such as visuals, charts, etc. At the same time, it’s important to consider the individual needs and learning styles of each I/DD student in the teaching approach.
Developing sex education programs for young adults with I/DD or helping to ensure that they receive sex education is an initiative that requires involvement from various professionals including social workers. Limestone social work students taking SW 206 will gain the knowledge necessary to play an active role in addressing these and similar challenges in our society.
The course provides introduction to the study of human sexual behaviors with attention to the issue of gender development; premarital, marital, and post marital sexual patterns; birth-control; sexual dysfunction; cross-cultural sexual patterns; sexually-transmitted diseases; and alternative sexual lifestyles.