Flirting Beyond Barriers: Cultivating Romantic Relationships within the IDD Community June 3, 2024 at 2:45 pm

Dillon et al. (2011) describe identity development as an ongoing process of exploring one’s sense of self regarding a set of values and beliefs. As a part of this progression, an individual examines how they would like to maintain consistency in their values, including sexual identity. Recent research has suggested that identity development takes place through adolescence and adulthood (Dillon et. al, 2011). Individuals with IDD have similar sexual desires, needs, and curiosities as those in the general population, but are consistently excluded from conversations about sex and relationships (Gougeon, 2009). There have been legislative efforts to advocate for the rights of individuals with IDD, however, Neuman (2022) notes that efforts have not adequately addressed inequities and the unique needs of IDD populations. Despite the salient role of socialization in the development of sexual identity, individuals with IDD report being told that parenthood was not an option or that their lives were already too complicated to include intimate relationships (Neuman, 2022; Booth, 2000; Booth & Booth, 2004). Given this discrepancy in education and the inequitable considerations for individuals with IDD, this project aims to amplify their voices and include them in conversations about sexuality development.

Key Learning Outcomes

1. Participants will gain an accurate understanding of the attitudes, experiences, and desires of individuals with IDD centering around relationships: Video-recorded interviews will provide an opportunity for the voices of individuals with IDD to be heard. These first-hand narratives will offer participants a new perspective of sexuality development among individuals with IDD. Participants will further their understanding of the nature of sexuality development and disrupt negative societal stereotypes.
2. Participants will be encouraged to include individuals with IDD in discussions concerning sexuality development: Adults with IDD are commonly excluded from conversations around sexual and romantic relationships. Amplifying the voices of adults with IDD will cultivate healthy environments for discussions regarding sexuality development. Accurate depictions of lived experiences among adults with IDD will encourage inclusion in formal and informal conversations concerning sexual and romantic relationships.
3. Participants will learn to disrupt harmful assumptions around human development for individuals with IDD: Participants will be encouraged to de-stigmatize societal beliefs that people with IDD are asexual or incapable of participating in a romantic relationship. Recognizing adults with IDD as sexual beings will create an environment for healthy sexuality development.

Speaker(s)

Ingram, Maddock, Gatewood, Varner
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