Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Mar 21
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by Doug Goldberg

I am 40 years old, married and have one 11 year old child and yet I am still waiting for my Dad to have “the talk” with me. Based on the conversations I have had with my friends, I am not alone. Many Parents are so uncomfortable having “the talk” with their children that they simple ignore it. I don’t recommend this strategy for any parent; however, for parents raising a child with special needs it’s even more important to discuss the subject of puberty and sex in an open and frank manner.

As I already mentioned my son is 11 years old and in the fifth grade, which you might think is too young to have this discussion but this is the age it is first discussed in School. Since I am a Special Education Advocate, I have always reviewed California’s content standards for each grade level prior to my son entering that grade. This helps me understand what my child will be learning that year and guides me and the IEP team when writing goals. This year when perusing the content standards for Health, I came across the standards for Growth, Development, and Sexual Health. There are actually 8 different standards; I have included only Standard 1, which is the Essential Concepts standard:

  • Describe the human cycle of reproduction, birth, growth, aging, and death.
  • Explain the structure, function, and major parts of the human reproductive system.
  • Identify the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
  • Define sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • Describe how HIV is and is not transmitted.
  • Recognize that there are individual differences in growth and development, physical appearance, and gender roles.
  • Recognize that everyone has the right to establish personal boundaries.
  • Recognize that friendship, attraction, and affection can be expressed in different ways.
  • Explain that puberty and physical development can vary considerably and still be normal.
  • Identify personal hygiene practices and health and safety issues related to puberty (e.g., showering, use of sanitary products, deodorant, and athletic supporters).

So as you can see, it’s not too early to begin these conversations. Even though my son, like many children with special needs, is very immature for his age; it is important to start these conversations now because their bodies are already beginning to change. It was hard for me to wrap my head around this mostly because my son has never even thought to ask any question regarding this topic. Some children as young as 3 or 4 already begin asking questions about where babies come from but my son has never even thought to utter those words at 11. When watching television or a movie together and the subject of sex is discussed he never once asked us what the characters meant. It has now become apparent to me that the less inquisitive he is about the subject the more important it is for us as parents to teach it.

When we met with his Teacher in December, I asked her to give me plenty of notice prior to the lesson on puberty and sex ed. I didn’t want my son to be the kid sitting in class watching the video aghast with fear and confusion. Have you ever heard the philosophy pre-teach, teach and re-teach? I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to pre-teach prior to the school teaching the lesson. We received the letter last week notifying us that this Friday they will be separating the class into boys and girls and watching a video that will then be discussed. This was my cue to start the pre-teach section of my plan.

On Sunday my son and I went into his room and closed the door. I started peppering him with generic questions. This was for my benefit to figure out where to start. As expected, I had to start at the beginning. We started the discussion with his body parts and discussed what changes he should expect in his own body as he grows and puberty starts. Then we discussed how the body parts on a woman are different than a man and what happens to them during puberty. As I was having each conversation I made him repeat it back to me to make sure he understood what I was saying. I must admit there was a lot of giggling on his part but that’s okay. Then we arrived on the topic of, “Where do babies come from?” When I asked him that question he answered, “from Mom’s belly.” “But how do they get in the Mom’s stomach,” I asked? Guess what, he didn’t know but now he was curious. It had never entered his mind in 11 years but when I pointed it out he did want to know.

So I spent the next 10 minutes explaining the concept of sex, eggs, sperm, and condoms. Yep, I threw in condoms; this was very important to me and also spurred on a conversation of preventing pregnancy and disease. We had to go over this a couple of times before I think he started to understand AND his response was, “Ewww, That’s gross!” He is eleven that is the response I expected. I would have been concerned if he said, “That sounds like fun.”

I’m sure this adventure will continue because he will be watching the video in School on Friday and then discussing it in class. This weekend it will be time for the re-teach section of my plan. We will need to go back into his room and discuss it again. Only this time it will be his turn to ask questions and try to explain it to me. I already know the pre-teach section of my plan is working because he came to my wife and I last night and said he noticed he was growing hair in a new spot!! Oh the joys of puberty!!!!!


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2 Responses to “Puberty, Sex Ed and the Child with Special Needs”

  1. This has been most helpful because I have an 11 yr. old daughter who is noticing changes occuring and I have been general and broad in my responses not sure if she is understanding what it is I am telling her. She has a cognitive disability and is also immature for her age so I was unsure how to begin the “talk ” or when. She is in fourth grade soon to be going to the fifth grade. For her to start middle school is a scary thought because the education is a little more intense for my daughter from my standard but neccesary . In short this has been most helpful in how to deal with the health aspect in the coming school year, Thank you….

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  2. I found this very helpful of what to cover to go over with my son, he has just turned 12 and has ASD autism, and although I have tried to explain some things a few years back he has now become become a lot more curious and confused, I have found 2 great books using them together they cover everything on the list.
    Let’s talk about where babies come from.
    Let’s talk about sex, growing up, changing bodies, sex and sexual health.
    Both books are by Robbie H. Harris.

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