Sex Education Instruction for Students Who Are Visually Impaired: Recommendations to Guide Practitioners

Article excerpt

Individuals with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) do not have the same opportunities to develop their knowledge of sexual health and participate in sex education as their sighted peers (Krupa & Esmail, 2010), although young adults with visual impairments participate in sexual activities at similar rates as their sighted peers (Kelly & Kapperman, 2012). Thus, prior research has found that young adults with visual impairments are regularly engaging in sexual activity (Kelly & Kapperman, 2012) but without having the opportunity to acquire the necessary information on important matters pertaining to sexual health (Krupa & Esmail, 2010).

An additional challenge to providing instruction on this value-laden topic is that little information has been reported in the literature on all aspects of sexuality as it pertains to those who are visually impaired. In this report, we have assembled a series of recommendations for accommodations and additional teaching and preteaching to guide teachers of students with visual impairments in sex education instruction for students with visual impairments. The recommendations were derived from our experiences and the few research studies in this important topic area. Krupa and Esmail (2010) found that three specific categories should be addressed in developing a framework for sex education instruction involving students with visual impairments: content, environment, and delivery. We have applied the same three specific categories in this report.

INSTRUCTIONAL CONTENT

We acknowledge that sex education programs vary among the states and within school districts. Thus, the content of the sex education program for a particular student who is visually impaired in a particular school district will be determined by the policies and procedures of the school district. In any circumstance, however, age-appropriate content should be provided to students with visual impairments (Curry & Hatlen, 1988), and, in this instance, we mean age-appropriate content in the area of sex education.

Taking all this into account, we have identified areas of sex education with which students with visual impairments typically would have difficulty with regard to both the learning environment and the delivery of instruction. The recommendations presented here can be incorporated into the particular aspects of various sex education programs that these students experience. Furthermore, this report is based on the assumption that students with visual impairments participate, along with sighted students, in commonly offered sex education classes.

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Before instruction is delivered

We contend that if the religious beliefs or ethical constraints of the teacher of students with visual impairments prohibit or inhibit the unbiased provision of information, then the teacher should excuse himself or herself from the instructional process and others should be sought to carry out the instruction for sex education.

Furthermore, the policies of the school district should be followed where sex education is concerned. Parents and school administrators should have full knowledge of the materials to be used, especially in the case of the graphic nature of the models that we recommend, and should be shown pictures of the models or the models themselves. An effort to obtain written permission from parents should be made before any sex education instruction is delivered. If the parents do not give permission, the practices that we recommend should not be used.

We understand that asking for permission is not always enough to obtain consent. It would be beneficial if a provision was developed that included the rationale for the sex education models and materials to be used during instruction. The teacher of students with visual impairments could then pass this documentation onto the parents and administrators to support his or her role in working with the students. …