Promoting sexuality across the life span for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Sexuality is a human right that is important to all individuals regardless of age, gender, orientation, or developmental level. Sexuality is closely related to a person’s self-concept and self-esteem. Individuals with I/DD have a right to sexuality and sexual expression. Nevertheless, persons with I/DD have historically been denied this right, and many structural and attitudinal barriers exist to their healthy sexuality. Paradigms in sexuality education have shifted toward recognizing sexuality as a human right, a major life resource, and an integral part of one’s makeup. To broadly address the development of healthy sexuality for individuals with I/DD, the issue needs to be normalized, not ignored or avoided; which means involving parents, staff, and professionals. Working with parents to overcome parental overprotection and social isolation is critical. Parents can provide opportunities for their sons and daughters to network and form meaningful personal relationships, with peers including encouraging association with peers outside of school or work hours.