Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Sexuality and the Disabled Adolescent: Concepts for the Clinician

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Sexuality and the Disabled Adolescent: Concepts for the Clinician

Article excerpt

Principles of helping disabled youth deal with issues of sexuality are presented in this discussion. Sexual interest and activity in the disabled adolescent parallels those desires and behaviors encountered in this youth's non-disabled peers. However, some disabled youth have difficulty negotiating life's tasks, including proper sexual relations with peers. Adolescents with disability have the added burden of attempting to tolerate real abnormalities and deviations from their idealized body image. These adolescents may develop lowered self-esteem, unsatisfactory body image, doubts involving future self-sufficiency and the ability to reproduce and parent. The youth who has a poor self-image becomes easy prey for peers who may look to criticize and bully others for their own advantage. Physical disability can create a setting in which actual enjoyment of sexuality is decreased although physical functioning is intact. Youth with colostomies can be anxious about the odor from the ostomy, and individuals with arthritis frequently are in pain, as are individuals with spinal cord lesions who have bed sores. In considering the sexual response in anyone with a disability, clinicians must take into account the psychological factors as well as the organic performance and organic enjoyment factors. In females, serious limitations (as from systemic lupus erythematosus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, neurologic disorders) can predispose the adolescent to a greater risk of pregnancy complications than others with less serious illness. …

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