Sex and Sexuality for the Developmentally Challenged

Sex and Sexuality for the Developmentally Challenged

As some of you may remember, I worked with sex offenders for about 20 years, and then with a program for the treatment of their victims. Even before that, I think I had an instinct for spotting vulnerability to abuse. If I recall correctly, it was Dave Hingsburger who alerted me to statistics showing that handicapped individuals are twice as likely to be sexually abused as neurotypical children, even more likely to be abused if they are living in a group home, and even more likely still if living in an institution. Personally, while I know that there are expoitive individuals who seek out the opportunities provided by looking after vulnerable populations, I think that caregivers can also be abusive because of losing track of the difference between their charges and sexually appropriate partners, coming to see them as potential sexual partners.

Now, I tend to intrude on the space-bubble maintained by the children whose programs I supervise, testing for the extent to which these socially avoidant children allow others into their personal space – it is one way of keeping track of the extent to which we are making progress in their treatment. For the most part, it is a good thing if they will let an acquaintance such as myself into their interpersonal world. Occasionally it isn’t, and I see a child a child without very good interpersonal boundaries, one that seems to be particularly vunerable to sexual abuse.  From an social relationship standpoint, it is as if their lack of social avoidance is too much of a good thing.

All of which prompts me to encourage you to read up on the subject of sexual abuse and sexuality, beginning with Dave Hingsburgher’s Just Say Know! Understanding and Reducing the Risk of Sexual Victimization for People with Developmental Disabilities.  Other books that I would recommend are Wendy Lawson’s Sex, Sexuality and the Autism Spectrum, Jerry and Mary Newport’s Autism-Asperger’s and Sexuality: Puberty and Beyond, and the Simmons and Davis book, Autism Tomorrow: The Complete Guide toHelp Your Child Thrive in the Real World.

 

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