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.