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According to Murphy and Young (2005), sexual development is a multidimensional process that ties into the basic human needs of being accepted, feeling valued, and attractive; To have the wants and desires to find a partner to share life and have children. However, when it comes to individuals with developmental disabilities, there are a few key issues and barriers they face regarding sexual health in this population. One of the article’s first vital issues is the lack of education for adolescents with physical disabilities. According to Murphy and Young (2005), adolescents with physical disabilities such as spine bifida report that they have not been adequately educated regarding parenthood, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases. This may be due to how western culture has viewed people with developmental disabilities as sexual or potentially deviant, which is another issue that individuals with developmental disabilities face when it comes to sexuality (Di Giulio, 2003). In addition, even if individuals with developmental disabilities are accepted more when it comes to employment or having friends, society continues to view individuals with disabilities as someone who are child-life or asexual (Murphy and Young, 2005). Due to their misconceptions about individuals with disabilities, a lack of sexual education creates a barrier to sexual health, particularly for women with disabilities, as they are unaware of the impacts pregnancy has on the female body and potential problems that can arise during childbirth.
Lastly, another key issue individuals with developmental disabilities face regarding sexuality is the harm of sexual victimization. According to Murphy and Young (2005), multiple studies have shown that children with disabilities are more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities due to their daily dependence on others. Because of the high rates of sexual abuse for children with developmental disabilities, parents and healthcare providers have a lot of fears of allowing their children to hang out with others unsupervised when it comes to social gatherings with peers. I understand parents’ and healthcare providers’ fears and want to protect children from this outcome. Still, I also believe that being overprotective can decrease the chances of children with developmental disabilities developing social skills and learning about personal boundaries, creating a massive barrier when they want to make friends or get a job. To reduce this outcome, parents and healthcare providers need to have open communication and dialogue regarding sexuality as it helps educate them and learn how to create personal boundaries. Overall, I believe with the proper education for parents on how to navigate having open communication and transparency with their children regarding sexuality, children with developmental disabilities will be able to teach them about sexual education and how to set personal boundaries.
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