Young people with disabilities aren’t being taught sex-ed — and it’s putting them in danger

What a young person is taught about sexual health will influence their behaviour and views about sex as they grow up.

Unfortunately, for many youth with disabilities, these lessons never come — neither in school nor in conversations with health care providers.

A new literature review found that of 5,500 research articles on talking to youth about sexuality, only two examined the topic of communication with a focus on youth with disabilities.

“There’s very little dedicated sex education for young people with disabilities,” said Dr. Amy McPherson, lead researcher and a scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

“I’ve spoken to a few people who were either told to leave or expected to leave those classes because it wasn’t going to be relevant for them.”

McPherson says throughout history, people with disabilities have been assumed to be asexual, or without sexual desire. This stereotype can often lead to those youth being left out of important conversations about sexual health and safety.

Canadians with disabilities are more than twice as likely as the general population to be victims of violence, per Statistics Canada.

Nearly four in 10 disabled people 15 years of age or older not living in institutions report experiencing robbery, sexual or physical assault, and the issue was most acute among people with cognitive or mental health disabilities, who reported victimization rates four times higher than the general population.

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