Sexual exploration and learning disability

4th June 2004 at 01:00
LIVING SAFER SEXUAL LIVES - A TRAINING AND RESOURCE PACK FOR PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES AND THOSE WHO SUPPORT THEM. By Patsie Frawley, Kelley Johnson, Lynne Hillier and Lyn Harrison. 260pp ringbinder format, plus 27-minute video. Published by Pavilion in conjunction with La Trobe University. ISBN 1-841 96115-9, pound;264.38.

This comprehensive and extensive publication makes a significant contribution to the fields of sexual knowledge, advocacy and independence for people with learning difficulties, their families or carers and professional staff from various disciplines.

It is a major research-based resource which has been piloted internationally. There are three distinct elements to commend it following a concise introduction.

First, issues of sexuality and sexual freedom are supported by detailed research and rationale in part one, which offers a comprehensive overview.

This section explores definitions and terms, issues and concerns, the aims of the research project, development and evaluating associated workshops.

Second, part two has three distinct sections that make a valuable support and training package. There is guidance about preparing the workshops, workshop outlines and assessing policy. Photocopyable materials and useful support information is included.

Workshop outlines and planned activities for people with learning difficulties, their families, carers and staff from a variety of jurisdictions are clearly set out. Knowing about sexuality and people with learning difficulties, attitudes and values, rights and sexuality, being safe and policy and practice are key areas for exploration and these are all supported by extensive background material.

The third part offers OHPs, handouts, transcripts of 16 related stories that also reflect part of the accompanying video.

In using the stories to illustrate major points, great consideration has been given to matching stories and recipient groups, and in presenting life stories that reflect diversity. There are also country-specific materials for consideration.

The stories are all from people with learning difficulties and explore matters of sexual experiences and attitudes in conjunction with a training appendix. The video has actors with learning difficulties relating life stories for illustration and discussion purposes.

Further, the pack looks at rights, duty of care, "dignity of risk", safer sex, contraception, privacy, consent, diversity, resources, positive sexual behaviours and support, abuse issues, working with families, assessments and decision-making.

Additional help is contained in the appendices, which contain a number of resource lists and introduces sex and the 3Rs, sex and staff training, sexual assault - when sex is not OK - and books about masturbation.

This publication is not cheap but it has an extensive, relevant and applicable quality content to commend it. Living Safer Sexual Lives would be very helpful to a consortium or federation of schools, training agencies or specialist providers (social services, health authorities or the independentcharitable sector promoting health, autonomy, maturation and growth). As a publication it may well be used in some aspects of counselling and associated therapies.

Len Parkyn

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