Practice Issues in Sexuality and Learning Disabilities

By Ann Craft | Go to book overview

2

Working with parents

John Rose and Chris Jones

The lives of people with learning disabilities and the parents with whom they live are inextricably entwined. Pauline Fairbrother, mother to a (then) young woman with a learning disability, writes:

By the very nature of their handicap they are always overlooked and directed. So not only do mentally handicapped people need sex education and counselling, but so do we, the parents and professionals, the 'overlookers'. Our attitudes must be examined, and if necessary undergo change if mentally handicapped people are ever going to have their sexual needs recognised and met.

(Fairbrother 1983)

The attitudes of parents to sexual and other moral issues are natural, powerful and often positive influences in the lives of their offspring. They cannot be disregarded. Professionals working in the field of learning disabilities cannot hope that they will diminish either with time or by simple counter-argument. They even extend beyond the grave as one middle-aged woman with a learning disability recently confided:

'My sadness is that mummy died and she never told me about sex and babies. She just didn't like it. She wouldn't talk about it.'

This chapter examines firstly the different levels at which parents and professionals interact over the sexuality of people with learning disabilities in their care. It is then argued that training for parents around sexual issues is both needed and generally welcomed, but that the concerns and priorities of professionals and parents are very different. A series of workshops exclusively for parents is then described and evaluated.

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