Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Birds and the Bees

My daughter, Jessica, is 18 years old and wants a boyfriend. Problem is – I’m not sure she understands what that means.

I’ve tried through the years (I adopted her at age 9) to explain the birds and the bees in a way that her significant cognitive impairment could understand. But, I never felt like I was getting through. Combine that cognitive impairment with the very real possibility that she was sexually abused while in the foster care system, and sex ed did not come easily.

But it’s time to figure out something. Jessica is an adult and wants to enjoy things that all adults enjoy, including the companionship of another adult. I believe she has a right to a sexual relationship if that is what she desires, but at the same time, I believe she needs to be taught what that means.

So several other members of her Person Centered Planning team and I went in search of resources. What we found is called Life Horizons. It is a two part, full curriculum which addresses sexuality.

The first part talks about the Physiological and Emotional Aspects of Being Male & Female. We previewed the CD yesterday, and it is graphic, but not graphic in a salacious way. And since it is presented as slides (no live action), slides which may not be appropriate can be skipped. The second part includes sections on Building Self-Esteem & Establishing Relationships; Moral, Legal & Social Aspects of Sexual Behavior -- Male; Moral, Legal & Social Aspects of Social Behavior -- Female; Dating Skills & Learning to Love; Marriage & Other Lifestyles; Parenting; and Preventing or Coping with Sexual Abuse.

It’s a lot of information, information which cannot be covered in one sitting. But, it appears to be very comprehensive and exactly what Jessica needs and wants. I will keep you posted as we start through the program, but I am curious as to what you think now.

Are you a parent who has had to struggle with this issue, and if so, what did you do? And, do you feel it is important, even critical, to educate a person with a significant cognitive disability on these matters? How have you responded to questions about dating, marriage and sexuality? What advice do you have for me as I undertake this journey with Jessica now, and Ashley later?


Terri said...

I also like resources from Dave Hingsberger and Terri Couwenhoven. These are tough subjects, but it is so necessary to address them for safety, for cultural belonging and for a full life. Yay you for taking it on.

MMC said...

I will definitely be checking this out because I have been looking for something in a similar vein.

The Blue Jay is 16 and good friends with my best friend's oldest son, who is 19 and has Down's Syndrome. They call one another boyfriend and girlfriend once a while but don't really understand what it means. So I am looking for resources on sexuality that are tailored for the cognitively challenged. That social part of life is huge. Thanks!

mommy~dearest said...

I think it's a wonderful idea, and once again, I'm so glad your kids are older than mine! I so look forward to your adventure! :)

Christine said...

What a fantastic resource and a subject that is often discussed in my home. My daughter Regan understands about the sexual realtionship and has taken the age appropriate classes at school. We are trying to find the resources as it would apply to her being physically disabled....which has been a challenge when she has questions.