Adolescent sexuality and disability

Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2002 Nov;13(4):857-73. doi: 10.1016/s1047-9651(02)00045-1.


Regardless of what our beliefs about sex and disability may be, as health care providers we can promote the health and well being of our patients with disabilities in several ways. First and perhaps foremost, physical and programmatic barriers to accessing general health care including routine gynecologic care must be dramatically reduced. The promise of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act must be aggressively extended to our health care system to ensure equal access to routine health care for all. Second, knowledge of community resources that can support the healthy development and exercise of responsible and satisfying sexuality is critical. For example, health care providers should know about adaptive and assistive technologies as well as the use of personal care assistants to support the healthy although sometimes nontypical expression of one's sexuality. Centers for Independent Living are community resources that are often underutilized by the medical profession. These centers--run by and for people with disabilities--are likely resources and allies for providing education, role models, and peer mentoring around relationships, intimacy, sexuality, sexual expression, and parenting with a disability. Finally, sex education is a must and should include the following: Basic facts of life, reproduction, and sexual intercourse; Human growth and development Human reproduction and anatomy Self-pleasuring/masturbation and the use of sexual aids Intimacy and privacy Pregnancy and child birth Contraception and abortion Family life and parenthood Sexual response and consensual sex Sexual orientation Sexual abuse HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The question should not be whether sex education is provided to persons with disabilities, but rather how it is most effectively provided. Health sex education must include the development of effective communication skills, decision-making skills, assertiveness, and the ability to say "no." It must also include ways to create satisfying relationships. For more information about sex education as it relates to people with disabilities, the following abbreviated resource list may be helpful: Ludwig S, Hingsburger, D. Being sexual: an illustrated series on sexuality and relationships. SIECCAN, 850 Coxwell, Aven., East York, Ontario, M4C 5R1 Tel: 416-466-5304; Fax: 416-778-0785. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), 130 West 42nd Street, Suite 350, New York, NY 10036. Tel: 212-819-9770. National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY), P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013; Tel/TTY: 800-695-0285; Fax: 202-884-8641; Internet: Non-Latex Supplies (Ask your pharmacist if not available) Trojan-Supra: Durex-Avanti: Female Health Company-FC Female Condom Pasante--EzOn (available in Canada and U.K.).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disabled Children*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexuality