Puberty and Sexuality

According the NDSS, children with Down syndrome experience the same sequence of physical and hormonal changes associated with puberty as other children their age. However, there is often a lag in the development of social maturity, emotional self-control, social communication, abstract thinking and problem solving abilities. And, all people with Down syndrome have sexual feelings and intimacy needs. It is important that expression of these feelings in socially acceptable, age appropriate ways be recognized by families and caregivers. Sexuality education is the way to plan for this aspect of adulthood as it applies to independence in educational, social, residential and vocational settings. Abuse is more likely to occur when an individual—any individual—is perceived as vulnerable.

Typically when there is a lack of education an exploitive relationship might take hold as an inappropriate means of meeting the person’s need for friends, interesting experiences, sensory and mental stimulation and a positive self-concept. Ignorance, an experience-poor environment, loneliness, the lack of stimulating activities and a sense of isolation can all be a breeding ground for increased vulnerability.

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