Sex Education and the Intellectually Handicapped

1984, Health Tech-Service

Co-authored with Lydia Fegan of the Autistic Association of NSW, then updated with the Family Planning Association of NSW’s Anne Rauch and re-released in 1993 by Maclennan & Petty as Sexuality and People with Intellectual Disability, this book teaches how to provide honest, accurate information about about all aspects of sexual development from basic explanations for young children to more detailed information appropriate for adults. Topics covered include HIV/AIDs and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. It candidly discusses sexuality and the attitudes of both individuals with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers. Sample dialogues and case situations, discussion of sexual rights for people with intellectual disabilities, and policy guidelines for organizations also are included.

Extract from an American reader’s review in 2003: “You just don’t see these books in bookstores in the US. This book … strives to help parents and caregivers deal appropriately and sensitively with the sexuality of their developmentally disabled children as they grow into adults. The author is aware that this isn’t the easiest topic to discuss and spends a lot of time exploring the repercussions of not discussing sex with their kids [same as with everyone… they will find out anyways] and outlining a good timeline for sharing information about sexuality. The author allows many developmentally disabled adults to share their own stories about sex and relationships, helping the readers get a grasp on how these issues can seem to people with an intellectual handicap.

The book is full of practical advice: dealing with birth control, menstruation, sexual experimentation, masturbation, homosexuality, etc and the author gives parents small scripts that may help them broach these subjects with their children. The overall tone is one of respect and guidance. While adults shouldn’t be making decisions about their children’s sexuality, they may need to be more closely involved than they might expect in their kids’ and adult children’s sex lives than they might have thought: McCarthy relates one story of a couple who goes on a honeymoon and takes the bride’s mother along as a chaperone, resulting in some amusing wedding night anecdotes. This book isn’t necessarily light reading for those who have no need to avail themselves of its contents, but it does a good chapter by chapter overview of the issues involved with the sexual maturation of the disabled and how to best approach it as a supportive and helpful guide.”



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