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2001 parents as sexuality educators for their children with developmental disabilities.

Historically, the sexuality of individuals with developmental disabilities has been both feared and denied. For centuries, numerous myths prevailed, alleging that people with developmental disabilities were asexual, oversexed, sexually uncontrollable, sexually animalistic, subhuman, dependent and childlike, and breeders of disability. (1)

Despite research that contradicts such myths, parents of children with developmental disabilities are still susceptible to these falsehoods. It is, therefore, not surprising that many experience anxiety regarding their children's sexual development and expression (2) ...

Parental Concerns

Although parent groups frequently have been the first to advocate for sexuality education for their children with developmental disabilities (3), few parents are adequately preparing their children for the socio-sexual aspects of life. (4)

Parents of children with developmental disabilities tend to be uncertain about the appropriate management of their children's sexual development. (5) They are often concerned with their son's or daughter's autoerotic behavior, overt signs of sexuality, physical development during puberty, and genital hygiene. (6) Fears of unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and embarrassing or hurtful situations are persistent realities. (7)

Some parents of children with developmental disabilities also fear that their children will be unable to express their sexual impulses appropriately, will produce children (thereby adding unwelcome responsibilities), and will be targets of sexual abuse or exploitation. (8) Parental anxiety over sexual exploitation often results in overprotection, thus depriving children with developmental disabilities of their sexual rights and freedom. (9) To alleviate fears and anxiety, parents may suppress their children's sexuality, and thus fail to equip them with the knowledge to deal appropriately with the sexual experiences they will encounter. (10)

The problem most frequently mentioned by parents regarding sexuality education is an inability to answer questions. (11) They are also often uncertain of what children know or should know. (12) Parents fear opening a Pandora's box of problems for themselves and their children by talking. (13) They often equate learning with intentions to perform sexual activities. (14) Professionals have found that parents have confused, anxious, and ambivalent attitudes toward the sexuality of their children and that they claim both limited knowledge of sexuality and feeling of inadequacy in providing information.

Through professional guidance, support, and education, mothers and fathers can gain a clearer understanding of their sons' and daughters' sexuality. To assist parents with their roles as sexuality educators, professionals should debunk popular misconceptions about sexuality and disability, provide information on the psychosexual development of children, and address strategies to promote appropriate childhood behavior through comprehensive sexuality education ...


1. M. Morgenstern, "The Psychosexual Development of the Retarded," in Human Sexuality and the Mentally Retarded, eds. E. De La Cruz and G. D. LaVeck (New York: Bruner/Mazel, Inc., 1973), 15-28; W. S. Rowe and S. Savage, Sexuality and the Developmentally Handicapped: A Guidebook for Healthcare Professionals (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1987).

2. M. Craft and A. Craft, Sex and the Mentally Handicapped (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).

3. S. Chipouras et al., Who Cares? A Handbook on Sex Education and Counseling Services for Disabled People (Washington, DC: George Washington University, 1979).

4. A. Dupras and R. Tremblay, "Path Analysis of Parents' Conservatism toward Sex Education of Their Mentally Retarded Children," American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 81, no. 2: 162-66; L. Wolf and D. Zarfas, "Parents' Attitudes toward Sterilizations of Their Mentally Retarded Children," American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 87, no. 2: 122-129.

5. H. L. Fisher and M. J. Krajicek, "Sexual Development of the Moderately Retarded Child: Level of Information and Parental Attitudes," Mental Retardation, 12, no. 3: 28-30.

6. N. R. Bernstein, "Sexuality in Adolescent Retardates," in Atypical Adolescence and Sexuality, ed. M. Sugar (New York: Norton, 1990), 44-57; E. Boylan, Women and Disability (London: Zed Books, 1991); S. Hammar and K. Barnard, "The Mentally Retarded Adolescent: A Review of the Characteristics and Problems of Non-Institutionalized Adolescent Retardates," Pediatrics, 38: 845-57; M. O. Taylor, "Teaching Parents about Their Impaired Adolescent's Sexuality," American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 14, no. 2: 109-112.

7. N. E. S. Gardner, "Sexuality," in The Right to Grow UP: An Introduction to Adults with Developmental Disabilities, ed. J. A. Summers (Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1986), 45-66.

8. W. Kempton, T. Davies, and L. Stiggall-Muccigrosso, Socialization and Sexuality, A Comprehensive Training Guide for Professionals Helping People with Disabilities that Hinder Learning (Peachtree City, GA: McGowan Publications, 1998).

9. W. Kempton and J. Gochros, "The Developmentally Disabled," in Helping the Sexually Oppressed, eds. H. L. Gochros, J. S. Gochros, and J. Fischer (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986), 224-37.

10. G. E. Blom, "Some Consideration about the Neglect of Sex Education in Special Education," Journal of Special Education, 5, no. 4: 359-61.

11. L. Murphy and S.D. Corte, "Sex Education for the Special Person," Special Parent/Special Child, 2, no. 2: 1-5.

12. D. Kewman et al., "Sexual Development of Children and Adolescents," in Sexual Function in People with Disability and Chronic Illness, eds. M. Sipski and C. J. Alexander (Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publications, 1997), 355-78.

13. B. Pendler and D. Hingsburger, "Sexuality: Dealing with Parents," Sexuality and Disability, 9, no. 2: 123-30.

14. G. Frith, J. Mitchell, and J. Lindsey, "Sex Education: The Neglected Dimensions on the Secondary Level Individualized Plans," The Clearing House, 54, no. 5: 197-99.


(listed alphabetically by artist)

In honor of our 40th Anniversary, SIECUS staff compiled lists of the 40 most influential books, songs, and television shows/movies about sexuality and related issues. These lists were not compiled using any scientific or survey methodology. Instead they represent the books, songs, shows, and movies that consistently rose to the top in our conversations with each other and with our families and friends.

* "You Shook Me"--AC/DC

* "Why Don't We Do It In the Road"--The Beatles

* "Suffragette City"--David Bowie

* "Sex Machine"--James Brown

* "Do That To Me One More Time"--Captain and Tenille

* "Light My Fire"--The Doors

* "Me and Mrs. Jones"--The Dramatics

* "Lay Lady Lay"--Bob Dylan

* "Relax"--Frankie Goes to Hollywood

* "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves"--Aretha Franklin/Annie Lennox

* "Let's Get It On"--Marvin Gaye

* "Foxey Lady"--Jimi Hendrix

* "Love for Sale"--Billie Holiday

* "Society's Child"--Janis Ian

* "Me and Bobby McGee"--Janis Joplin

* "Natural Woman"--Carole King

* "Lola"--The Kinks

* "Lady Marmalade"--Patty LaBelle and the Blubells

* "She Bop"--Cyndi Lauper

* "The Pill"--Loretta Lynn

* "Like A Virgin"--Madonna

* "Paradise By The Dashboard Light"--Meatloaf

* "I Want Your Sex"--George Michael

* "You Oughta Know"--Alanis Morrisette

* "Get Your Freak On"--Missy Elliot

* "Smells Like Teen Spirit"--Nirvana

* "Just A Girl"--No Doubt

* "Emily"--Laura Nyro

* "Daughter"--Pearl Jam

* "Little Red Corvette"--Prince

* "Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love"--Queen

* "I Am Woman"--Helen Reddy

* "Take A Walk On The Wild Side"--Lou Reed

* "Let's Spend The Night Together"--The Rolling Stones

* "Let's Talk About Sex"--Salt-N-Pepa

* "Unity"--Queen Latifah

* "Do You Think I'm Sexy"--Rod Stewart

* "Love To Love You Baby"--Donna Summer

* "What's Love Got To Do With It?"--Tina Turner

* "YMCA"--The Village People

Michelle Ballan, M.S.W.

Excerpted from SIECUS Report, Volume 29, Number 3, February/March 2001.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Forty Years of Knowledge SIECUS on Sexuality and Disability
Author:Ballan, Michelle
Publication:SIECUS Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Previous Article:1986 sexuality and disability: looking backward and forward.
Next Article:1970 sex education lawsuit Kansas--impressions and implications.

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