Sexual knowledge in adolescents with intellectual disabilities: A timely reflection

Becky Rowe, Courtney Wright


At its core, sexuality education for adolescents with intellectual disabilities (ID) is an international human rights issue. Adolescents with ID have the same sexual desires and needs as others, yet their sexuality is generally portrayed as problematic. Despite an ideological shift towards normalisation and inclusion of people with disabilities, sexuality education for adolescents with ID remains an under-explored field. The current article presents an informed literature review of the factors that influence the effectiveness of sexuality education on sexual knowledge among adolescents with ID, and an accompanying commentary on how these factors sit within wider disability studies and practice. As will be shown, the available evidence on sexual knowledge in adolescents with ID reports on sexuality education sources and delivery, sexual knowledge, conservative curricula, and social exclusion. This review of contemporary research from developed, westernised countries identifies important implications for policy, practice, and future research. This article is significant and timely given the disjunct between the current expression of sexuality in young people with ID and recent international human rights actions to promote both the rights of people with disabilities and sexuality education rights for all adolescents.

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