Our guest blogger, Wilf Parsons from Life Support Productions discusses Relationships and Sex Education for autistic students. He considers new legislation, accessibility and the anxiety some parents must feel in giving their child the best possible support.
As of September last year, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) became mandatory in primary, secondary and special schools – RSE (England) Regulations 2019. The new legislation also details the rights of all children, including those with special educational needs, to appropriate and accessible information and resources.
Children and young people are growing up in an increasingly sexualised World and are being confronted with questions about their own opinions, values and identity at a younger age than previous generations. Now more than ever it is important that they have the educational support and resources to help prepare them for adult life.
The needs and interests of children and young people with additional educational needs, including autism, have sometimes been overlooked in parts of the educational curriculum.
For them, accessible information across a range of topics needs to be presented clearly and sensitively. Key issues, such as consent, may need repetition, not only for comprehension and understanding, but also to illustrate a variety of situations. With consent this should include saying and understanding both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
It is also important to equip children and young people with the essential information about their own bodies, feelings and identities, including how they change as they grow and enter adolescence.
Information about sex, contraception and other sensitive issues needs to be clear and complete. Leaving things to inference or partial explanation is likely to cause confusion and misunderstanding.
Parents and carers may also feel some anxiety about relationship and sex education, and feel concerned that appropriate, accessible resources are available. To help, privacy and other practical everyday topics need to be clearly explained.
Personal care and health awareness are other important skills that comprehensive RSE resources should help to explain and develop. Other key subjects include sexual orientation and understanding different types of relationship. These should all be presented in a positive, none judgemental way.
Other types of relationship issues, including the danger of ‘fake mates’ and other exploitative situations, should be explained clearly so as to help more vulnerable children and young people stay safe. Resources should explain about getting help and advice, and encourage young people who have anxieties or are experiencing any sort or difficulties to seek support.
Ideal resources should explore and explain each topic individually so that parents, carers and teachers can plan each lesson appropriate to age and needs. They also need to be up-to-date and cover important issues in young people’s lives today including social media and online safety.
For more information on relationships and sex education please visit The Den: https://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/friends-and-relationships/ .
Thank you to Wilf Parsons from Life Support Productions for the informative blog post.
The Autism Education Trust is not affiliated with and does not endorse the products or services of Life Support Productions.