The World Health Organization defines sexual health as a “state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality”; which goes beyond disease, dysfunction, and infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, and needs to be free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. Being in good sexual health means you are well informed, careful, and respectful to yourself and others.
Healthy Relationships need to begin as early as elementary/middle school. During adolescence, young people learn how to form safe and healthy relationships with friends, family, neighbors, and educators. Peers play a big role in identity formation, but relationships with caring adults (parents, mentors, coaches, teachers) are very important to developing healthy relationships. Unfortunately, adolescents sometimes develop unhealthy relationships and experience or exhibit bullying or dating violence. Students with autism and other developmental delays have an even harder time recognizing what is healthy and unhealthy.
Experts say educators need to help incorporate a Healthy Relationship program into their schools, especially for special education students. Students need to have a clear understanding on what is healthy and what is not, in real-life time. The earlier, and more often, they receive the information the better chance they will transition into healthy and caring adults. This is important for both regular and special education students.
So, what is sex education? Most schools and parents hear these words and immediately think sex, body development, and sexuality, and people become uncomfortable talking about this with young adults. Sex education goes beyond sex and incorporates relationship development in all stages, along with the skills needed to help young adults make informed decisions. These skills are critical throughout life to help them transition into productive and caring adults. Research has shown that sex education is more effective when it occurs throughout the child’s school career and on a continual basis. My experience has shown, young adults want to hear honest information, and isn’t it better to have them ask questions and learn in a safe, and trusted environment? Especially young adults with autism and developmental delays who might not know what to ask, who to ask, or realize they are being bullied.
Different states have been slowly recognizing the importance of sex education and have been putting strict guidelines in place for schools to follow. We want young adults to build trust while providing them with the knowledge, ability, and comfort to manage their sexual health throughout their lives in a thoughtful, empowered, and responsible way. However, society needs to provide young people with honest, age-appropriate information they need to make appropriate decisions independently.
The Healthy Relationships Curriculum is a resource that can benefit your school or organization in the areas of sex education and social relationships. It was developed by special education teachers, therapists, and psychologists to help prepare youth to transition into adulthood. If you want more information on how this program can fit into your existing resources, contact a representative today!