CN: “sex ed”
There is no room for sexuality in the special education classroom. It’s a difficult and controversial topic in general education that gets largely ignored in special education. Students with disabilities are either viewed as non-sexual (eternal children) or hyper-sexual (sexual deviants). Those who fall into the first category don’t get sex ed at all. The second group do get sex ed, but it’s “sex ed for special education.” Sex Ed for Special Education covers: public and private - what you can do where, circles of friendship - appropriate behaviors around people you know more/less well (aka not everyone is your best friend), and hygiene.
If you’re wondering where the actual “sex ed” is in that curriculum, that’s pretty much my point. Hygiene is as close as they come to “why my body is changing” and I’ve seen some pretty fascinating misconceptions about how the adult body works from my adult students as a result. But I only knew about it because I was supporting them in the residence in the evening when they were confused and overwhelmed and unable to express it. Most teachers don’t get that opportunity to interact with their students in that setting and most residential staff don’t have the time or training to provide the feedback to the educational staff. (And that’s assuming either side is willing to listen or do anything about it.)
Somebody did ask, at a recent conference I attended on teaching sexuality to students with significant needs, about teaching about sexuality, safe sex, or dating. The presenter dismissed this as a non-issue for this population, stating “if a student expressed an interest in any of these areas we would address it on a 1:1 basis, but it hasn’t come up.” Of course it hasn’t come up. Most of our students don’t know how to ask. It certainly isn’t default vocabulary in anyone’s communication device. Typical students have extreme difficulty talking about it and finding someone who they trust enough to talk to. We are expecting students for whom basic communication can still be a challenge, and who may only have a few people in their lives with whom fluent communication is even possible, to initiate these conversations?
But that won’t change. Because that’s not the point of Sex Ed for Special Education. The goal, like the goal of most special education curriculum, is to get those uncomfortable box 2 students back into box 1 where they make their typical educators feel more comfortable. Without changing that paradigm, sexuality will never be allowed to exist in the special education classroom.