Sex. What does that word bring up for you? If you’re like the rest of us, it can bring up lots of things: anxiety, curiosity, worry, happiness, hurt, anger, overwhelm, joy, pain – and maybe more!
In the world of folks with I/DD and their families, I’ve seen lots of unique and valid concerns about sex, for example:
For Individuals: How do I have a safe and happy romantic life?
For Parents: How do I talk with my young adult about sex? Should I even mention it to them? It can be hard for so many reasons!
For All: What about sexual abuse? It’s scary to think about it, but I also want to see everyone protected from it. How do I learn about it to prevent it?
For Parents: If my young adult conceives a child of their own someday, who will support them as they build a family? Even if I want to as a parent, I will be getting older and may have health issues of my own.
Can you relate to any of these, or other sex-related issues?
Indeed, so many important questions like these come up about sexual health and safety in our community here at Wildwood. In this article, I want to point out a critical – yet often underused tool that can help, The Sexual Consent Assessment.
The Sexual Consent Assessment, generally speaking, is a special, clinical questionnaire. Wildwood currently uses a type called the SSKAAT-R, the Socio-sexual Knowledge and Attitudes Test. We administer it privately, and with a lot of thought and planning given in advance to the individual’s emotional comfort. Usually, it’s just the Individual themselves and one of our trained and trusted clinical staff, such as Dr. Marianne Simon, or Social Worker, Donna Dorsey. The administration of this questionnaire is a process we’ve been working on perfecting at Wildwood for years, striving to make sure the experience goes the best it possibly can for all involved.
The Sexual Consent Assessment helps an individual and their supporters find out exactly what an individual may already know accurately about sexuality--and what they should work to learn, for their safety and benefit. For example, at one point, it asks individuals if they know how babies are conceived. It also asks about important legal topics like: Do you know the legal age of consent to have sex? Do you know you can say no to sex, at all times? Do you know whether it’s okay to do sexual things in private or in public? It covers a broad range of topics, and we can certainly provide an overview ahead of time. Afterwards, an individual and their chosen supporters, will receive a report and meet with staff about what area(s) of sexual health, if any, an individual should continue to learn about. And, yes, while the individual can come away thinking more about sexuality – we offer lots of possible support options to follow through with this. For example, we continue to offer 1:1 continuing education with me, Kate, Wildwood’s Social Relationships and Sexuality Educator, as well as workshops and support groups. There are also additional community resources we can link you to if my program isn’t exactly the right fit.
While typically used like an educational assessment for the safety and protection of the individual, I should note that it is also often used for medical and even legal purposes. For example, it can be useful for Individuals who live residentially to have this assessment, just so staff and Individuals can make an explicit sexual safety plan together. That said, it is virtually always administered voluntarily – Wildwood never mandates this assessment. Usually, an individual or family might just seek it out as an Individual reaches legal age of sexual consent in NY (17); or it may be offered to an individual if they appear to be engaging in sexual behavior and no one knows, including them, where their sexual consent aptitude presently stands.
Thanks for taking a minute to learn with me more about the sexual health resources available here at Wildwood. We hope to support all our Individuals and Families to live their healthiest, happiest lives possible!