Sex and Sensibility: Discussing Attitudes and Approaches in the Residential Setting

Sensitivity training is a method where organizations teach employees how to react to certain situations in order to avoid incidents. When working with individuals with disabilities, we have a recognize disabilities as a positive unique societal element and not a negative setback. Training is a proactive method that teaches education and awareness. This article will focus on how to display the “right” attitude and approach within the residence while being sensible. The difference between sensitivity and sensibility is that sensitivity is displaying more sympathy while sensibility is displaying more empathy.

Sensibility refers to the ability to perceive emotions and respond better. For example, you have a female individual who had a sexually abusive childhood and now is promiscuous because of it. As a caregiver, the approach would be to be sensitive to female individual because of her childhood. However, the sensible approach would be to teach her sex education and social awareness. Sensible approaches make sense for the staff and the individual because they are using conventional wisdom. Five effective principles regarding sexual education for the developmentally disabled are access; comprehensiveness; effectiveness of approaches and methods; training and administrative support; evaluation; social development. Every individual with disabilities should have access to information regarding sexual education. Access promotes awareness and awareness promotes better decision making. Comprehensiveness focuses on the material and the way it is prepared in order for the individual to understand the concepts of sexuality. Approaches and methods coincide with administrative training and support because if staff are not able to develop the appropriate support and approaches without proper training and support. Evaluation is necessary because it has to be constant by analyzing the material and training tools and revising them if needed. Social development is important because it allows the staff to encourage social interaction and inclusion with the individuals who lack awareness. Some intellectually and/or physically disabled people grow up in group homes or institutions. This can cause difficulties in social and personal development, and can contribute to the development of socially inappropriate behavior. It can also be more difficult for intellectually disabled people to distinguish between public and private behaviors. For example, the staff could escort the individual to a seminar or a clinic to learn new information or join a support group for interaction.

There are many common attitudes towards individuals with disabilities and sexuality. Sexual ignorance is an enormous hurdle for people with disabilities when trying to figure themselves out sexually. The situation of an individual with a disability is made a lot worse when that person is denied access to the sex education most people receive. In many cases, sex education is being withheld from many persons with disabilities on the assumption that the individual ‘won’t need it’. The fact of matter is the issues of sexuality in people with developmental disabilities are reduced to basic sex acts and biological urges. Basic human emotion is seldom apart of the equation which leaves the individual at a disadvantage when learning how to express appropriate feelings. Most individual with disabilities not only struggle with sexual expression but they also struggle sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a topic that is often difficult and sometimes volatile because of its inherent connection to ethics, morality, and religious belief. It can challenge individuals by bringing up very personal feelings about their own relationships and sexuality. It is also important for staff in the residential setting to not let culture affect the relationships with the individuals regarding sexuality. On the other hand, staff should not let their peers dictate relationships with the individuals. Sex and disability tend to be a taboo area for people and is rarely discussed in the same sentence. As a result more than 50% of disabled people do not have any form of a regular sex life. People with physical or intellectual disabilities in today’s society are often regarded as non-sexual adults. Sex is very much associated with mental and physical attractiveness, and when it is not, is often seen as “improper”. Furthermore, if sex and disability are even discussed, it is very much in terms of capacity, technique, and fertility. For example individuals worry about fertility, pregnancy issues or societal views. Opportunities for sexual exploration among people with disabilities, particularly the less capable, are very limited. There is often a lack of privacy and they are much more likely to receive a negative reaction from a staff if discovered. Among the major systemic barriers to healthy sexual expression among both the physically and developmentally disabled is a lack of privacy. Depending on others, such as family members or direct care, for care daily activities can also seriously restrict a person’s opportunities

For people with disabilities being supported by services in a residential setting, it is not person centered planning that matters as much as person centered thinking. If people with disabilities who use services are to have positive control over their lives, if they are to have self directed lives within their own communities then those who are around the person, especially those who do the day to day work need to have person centered thinking skills. Only a small percentage of people need to know how to write good person centered plans, but everyone involved needs to have good skills in person centered thinking.

Related posts