Q: Our son is intellectually challenged. He has been in special programs throughout his school years and this year will start a program to learn to be more independent. The school has been great with him and we have had solid support from our health district. Now we are entering a new era.
Fourteen-year-old boys tend to have obsessions with human sexuality. Our problem is that we are not sure how to deal with it. This is one area where the school has not been helpful and when we talk to health professionals, they recommend that our son follow a strict regime of abstinence. What do you suggest?
A: This is a touchy subject. Within the last 50 years, children who were intellectually challenged were sterilized in some jurisdictions.
Fortunately, this has changed.
Just because your son has an intellectual disability is no reason to deny him his rights as a person to fulfill his normal and natural sexual tendencies.
That little section of his neurological framework that struggles with logic and memory is different than the part of his brain harbouring sexuality.
His sexuality is likely just fine and he has every right to experience it.
However, I would like to suggest that you have some responsibility for ensuring that your son’s sexuality is entrenched within the cultural framework of your community. He needs to know that sexuality is a private and personal matter.
You may not be able to explain the whys and the why nots of this to him but he can understand the word no. No in this instance means that he cannot publicly broadcast his or anyone else’s sexual experiences.
Your son needs to understand the relationship between sexuality and pregnancy. He and his partner would likely need a lot of support, encouragement and guidance to help them properly nurture a child. That includes support from you and social programs the government offers to an intellectually challenged family.
The programs have been modestly successful and children coming out of homes built around that kind of support do well in both their schools and communities.
Sexuality is normal and natural for everyone, including those who are disabled. The more that you can accept and understand your son within his sexual being, the better are the odds that he will carry his desire for intimacy through a healthy context.