Tag: sexuality and people with disabilities

Healthy Sexuality / Relationship Resources for People with Disabilities

couple staring away from shoulder up

Here are some helpful sexuality / relationship resources for people with disabilities, professionals, educators, and parents.

 Helpful Links

Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Disability Resource Guide 2011 
Be sure to bookmark this new resource link listed on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s website.  Here you will find a treasure trove of information that includes curricula, trainings, websites, help-lines, support groups, books and CD/DVDs appropriate for both youth and adults with a wide range of disabilities.

NICHCY – Sexuality Education for Students with Disabilities
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities’ site  includes various resources for parents and educators. Scroll down page to find materials with specific disabilities in mind.

Sexuality & Disability:A Guide for Parents
This guide is provided by Alberta Health Services for parents of child, teen and adults.

Relationship Groups for Men & Women with Developmental Disabilities

The following agencies in Massachusetts offer group sessions on relationship and sexuality topics for men and women with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

  • Options and Possibilities in Reading
    Contact Paula Thompson LICSW at 781-454-7824 or optionspossibilities@gmail.com
  • Lifelinks in Chelmsford
    Oct. 5, 2011, Parent Training, 6pm – 8 pm
    Oct. 15, 2011, Seminar for individuals with disabilities, 9am – 2pm
    Contact Rachel Ward-Sullivan at 978-349-3040 or rwardsullivan@lifelinksinc.net

Trainings / Learning & Development for DDS Support Staff 

Human Sexuality, Relationship and Social Skills training of Trainer Series
Pat Carney provides this annual eight week session to DDS agency and provider staff.  This is also available to a limited number of other related professionals.
Contact patricia.carney@state.ma.us with questions.
To register call 413-284-5082 or email Jeffrey.Monseau@state.ma.us

Sexuality Educators
The following professional teams offer sexuality training  for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities in agencies, school systems and on an individual basis.    

  • Diane E. Westerman
    401-499-5231 or westwooman@aol.com
    Ken Renaud
    IN2UHealthy Relationships
    401-785-2100 or in2uhealthyrelationships.com
    Will travel to any part of Mass/RI/eastern CT 
  • Rebecca H. Barry
    508-505-6188 or rbarry@arcnbc.org
    Mary Ellen Goodwin
    508-446-5112 or Maryellen@betacomm.org
    Will travel anywhere in Mass/RI

Rainbow Support Group: A welcoming place for LGBT people with disabilities

Rainbow triangle

This week we are pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Pauline Bosma, Project Consultant for the Rainbow Support Group of Massachusetts.

Groups provide support  around the state

The Rainbow Support Group (RSG) is for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them be comfortable with who they are. We have four support groups in the state of Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. The RSG is part of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) and is supported by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

The RSG is for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (GLBT) or who have questions about their sexual identity. The groups are hosted by different agencies across Massachusetts, with members of each group writing their own agenda.

Some of the activities the groups have done are: talking about rights, health issues like AIDS, and understanding what GLBT means. Some groups have attended Pride Day events in Boston and Northampton. It is up to the individual groups to decide what is important and interesting to them.

The importance of a safe environment

I think it is important to have RSG because there used to be no support within the intellectual disability system for people who use services and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning their sexual identity. Support is important so people can live the lives they want to. The RSG gives them a safe, comfortable environment to talk about their issues, decide when they are ready to come out, and how to come out to other people.

Pauline Bosma
Pauline Bosma

I started RSG in 2004 with help from the Kennedy-Donovan Center. RSG is modeled after a similar group in New Haven, CT. For several years, there was only one group, in Central Mass. In 2008, I went to Commissioner Howe of DDS, along with MASS coordinator Ed Bielecki, DDS trainer Pat Carney and MASS coordinator Elaine Spier-Kalmar from western MA. We asked the commissioner about trying to expand the groups across the state. Commissioner Howe has supported a small project through MASS that has allowed us to grow to where we are now.

If you are a person who is interested in learning more about the RSG, you can reach us at: rainbows_58@yahoo.com , mass1998@earthlink.net , Patricia.Carney@state.ma.us or call: 1-866-426-2253 (1-866-IamAble).

The Role of Shared Living Providers in Supporting Healthy Sexuality of the People they Serve

Shared living is one of the residential service models available to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) who receive services from the Department of Developmental Services. Shared living services provide support to the individual in a natural, family environment.

An important focus of shared living is to foster relationships and promote community inclusion. Sexual expression can be a part of some relationships.

A provider’s role

Shared Living Providers (SLP) can support the person living in their home to develop a positive sexual identity. By providing a supportive, non-judgmental environment, the
SLP has the opportunity to assist the individual with building a healthy self concept, positive self esteem and confidence to discover who they are as an individual.
Another area that a
SLP can influence is the person’s experience of intimacy and building healthy relationships. It is very important for a
SLP to work with the individual to build a home environment that is safe and comfortable. It takes time and acceptance of the individual for who they are to build a trusting relationship and create an intimate environment where the person feels at home.

Some things to remember

• A person with I/DD is a sexual being and has the same need for relationships as everyone else.

• It takes time for a person to adjust to a new living situation and being around new people. Trust has to be built between everyone. Making consistent time for 1:1 attention is a great way to make a person feel accepted.

SLPs have to know their own limits; sexuality is complicated. The topics being raised may challenge your comfort level or may be topics you don’t know well enough to confidently discuss. As a
SLP, if you need help, ask your case manager at the agency.
• Take the person’s questions seriously. They are struggling to understand their feelings and learning how to express them.

Together we can make a difference in how a person with I/DD understands their sexuality. In turn, they can learn how to enjoy their relationships in safe, healthy and fun ways.

Chad Linstruth
Chad Linstruth

Sexuality and People with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

picture of couple from shoulders up looking away

As a sexuality educator, I have been honored to meet individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and paid caregivers in a variety of circumstances. Many understand and embrace the idea of people with disabilities as sexual beings. Some struggle with the topic, and are not quite sure if they are ready to pursue additional information.

Regardless of their comfort level, the people I meet are seeking assistance to help their client, loved one or themselves understand and express their sexuality in safe, healthy and fun ways.

Defining Sexuality

In my experience, I have learned that having a broader understanding of what sexuality is provides everyone involved with information and tools to overcome hesitation and begin to proactively build supports for the person. This is the definition I use:

Sexuality is the integration of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of an individual’s personality that express maleness and femaleness. It begins at birth and affects all the senses; it is not limited to genitals. Sexuality involves identity, reproduction, sensuality and intimacy.

From: Who Cares? A Handbook on Sex Education and Counseling Services for Disabled People. (Cornelius, D., Chipouras, S., Makas, E., Daniels, S. 1979. University Park Press, Baltimore.)

A definition that make sense

I like this definition for several reasons.

First, by saying that sexuality is both part of our personality and a lifelong part of who we are as human beings, it emphasizes the inherent nature of sexuality for all people.

Second, it lists four aspects of our personality that are integral to our sexuality: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual – clarifying that the physical aspect is only one area of sexuality, not the entire deal.

Finally, it identifies four avenues through which we both develop and express sexuality: identity, reproduction, sensuality and intimacy.

Sexuality is a part of us all

It is important to have a good idea of what sexuality entails so that the thought of it doesn’t scare us away from providing education, support and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to fully develop this important aspect of their personality.

Sexuality is always a part of who we are and we, as family members and paid caregivers, must create healthy and safe ways for children and adults with I/DD to build their own ways of understanding and expressing sexuality.

Patricia Carney
Patricia Carney