Checklist - Key topics
to address with children and young people
It’s a big area and therefore can feel overwhelming.
Here are some of the topics and skills that other parents and the literature have identified can support healthy development:
Promoting a health sense of well being:
- Discussing family values, beliefs including religious, cultural and social values and expectations.
- Encouraging positive self-esteem – valuing ourselves and seeing our value to others in a positive way
- Encourage social opportunities, interaction to develop confidence and social skills including widening a child’s social circle,
- Teaching independence
Promoting understanding about body changes:
- Promoting a positive body image – feeling positive, affirming and accepting about our body shape – whatever it may be.
- Teach the difference between public and private and what is appropriate in public. For example explaining how masturbation is a private thing and shouldn’t be done in public.
- Explain puberty – how their body is going to change at different times, look and feel different, the correct name for different parts of their bodies
- Promoting a healthy sexual identity. That it is okay and a positive thing to have sexual and romantic feelings and how to navigate sexual/physical feelings, understanding the concept of consent, and how to understand and respond when someone is interested in them
Promoting understanding about having healthy relationships and appropriate sexual behaviour
- This can include discussing what is good touch, when sexual touch is okay and how to pursue this,
- What is sexual orientation – how sexuality can be diverse, with some children being heterosexual or homosexual, some being transgender
- Teach protective behaviours – about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch, about who to trust, what to do if they don’t feel safe
- Discussing information about reproduction, the purpose of contraception and different contraceptive options.
- Discussing strategies that may be needed to address how their disability may impact on their ability to experience sexual sensation and function including the need for assistance
- How to be safe on the internet. This is a really important issue and does need to be well thought through. Some parents establish rules around using the internet for their child; they monitor social media platforms including Facebook.
Promoting understanding about diversity.
Children with disability, like all children, have sexual experiences across the spectrum of gender and sexual diversity.
- Providing information and opportunities to develop and express sexual orientation or gender identity is important for all children.
- These avenues can include promoting conversations, providing reading material, access to social media and social groups, all of which can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people who are people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) with a disability.
- Children and young people with disability who identify as LGBTI require education like all children about puberty, sexual function, sexual desire and sexual safety.
- Same-sex attracted, gender diverse and intersex (SSAGDI) young people with disabilities may be at higher risk for compromised sexual health due to an increased likelihood of not receiving sex education.
- While there are common issues for all young people (handling homophobia, developing a positive body image, knowing their sexuality is valid) there can also be added dimensions for LGBTI young people with a disability – dealing with myths and beliefs that they can’t form relationships, understanding the specificity of their particular physical needs in order to enjoy sexual relationships, having access to support groups.
- These are the challenges and it is important that LGBTI people with disability have access to and involvement with the support and companionship they need, the resources and inspiring stories about the fulfilling lives, opportunities and achievements of other young people, so they like all young people can reach their full potential.