Sex: What Is the Big Deal? Exploring Individuals' with Intellectual Disabilities Experiences with Sex Education

Qual Health Res. 2022 Feb;32(3):453-464. doi: 10.1177/10497323211057090. Epub 2021 Dec 20.


This article offers perspectives shared by self-advocates in the first phase of a community-based participatory research project untaken to address barriers that individuals with intellectual disabilities face with respect to sexual health knowledge. Using descriptive qualitative methods, we interviewed 19 individuals with intellectual disability about their experiences and knowledge related to sexual health. The research question guiding this project was: What are self-advocates' with intellectual disabilities experiences learning about sexual health and sexuality? The findings highlight that participants faced barriers and lack of access to sexual health education, and while they learned about sexual health through formal sexual health education, frequently this knowledge came through lived experience. Finally, the findings underscore that participants knew what they wanted with respect to sexual health education and offered recommendations. The importance of accessible sexual health education for self-advocates that supports their rights and desires to express their sexuality and sexual agency is highlighted.

Keywords: developmental disability < disability; disabled persons; qualitative; sexual health; sexuality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Health*
  • Sexuality